SPECIAL REPORT A good meal on their day off is a rare treat for four Indonesian girls who met reporters from Malaysiakini and Jakarta-based magazine Tempo over lunch on a Sunday last month.
The sweet sour tofu, bean sprouts, sausages and nuggets they ordered to share were perhaps the more familiar items from a menu that specialises in delicacies from northern Peninsula Malaysia.
“I haven’t eaten since this morning,” said Sundari, not her real name. “The company does not provide breakfast on Sundays.”
She revealed that there were times their breakfast would only consist of white rice with tempe or vegetables, or even just rice and crackers. Lunch is not much different.
“The company provides lunch, but often there would not be enough for the 170-plus workers,” said Denok, Sundari’s friend. And for dinner, the workers would be on their own.
All four of them hail from Semarang, a northern port city on the island of Java, and now working at Maxim Birdnest Sdn Bhd based in Klang. Their main duty is to process the swiftlet nests into prized exports bound for China.
The company is owned by Albert Tei, a 29-year-old entrepreneur who also controls several manpower agencies, a carwash chain and laundromats.
He uploaded pictures of him in full regalia after receiving a datukship, and a picture next to Immigration director Mustafar Ali on his public Instagram account. The account was no longer accessible after Indonesian media published a picture of him posing in front of Maxim Birdnest, sourced from that account.
Left with only RM200 a month after deductions
Three of the four teenagers sported dark eyebags that made them look much older than their real age.
According to Sundari, they were often forced to work for more than 12 hours a day - and sometimes up to 16 hours - to reach the minimum target of 15 birds’ nests a day...