By: Our Correspondent

Two Indonesian agencies, one a government body and the other an NGO, are
offering opposing stories on whether an Indonesian maid was raped by
Malaysian Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim in 2007. But
whether she was or wasn't, it has become the latest episode in a feud
between the 68-year-old Rais and Malaysian bloggers who gave the story
wide currency, with overtones of an attempt to drive him out of the
cabinet.

One agency said the woman, identified by her single name
as Robingha, denied being raped although another said that four years
ago she told them she had indeed been sexually assaulted. Jumhur
Hidayat, chairman of the National Board for the Placement and Protection
of Indonesian Overseas Workers, said Friday in Jakarta that the maid
had delivered a written statement to four of the board's personnel in
central Java that she had never been raped and that she had been treated
well in Rais's home.

However, Anis Hidayah, the director of
Migrant Care, an Indonesian NGO, said the woman had reported in 2007
that she had indeed been raped and that a report had been filed with the
Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the Indonesian National Police.
Anis Hidayah said Rubingah had claimed at the time that she had been
raped.

"She told us in 2007 that she was raped," Hidayah told
the Jakarta Globe, adding that the NGO had never meant to publicize the
investigation beyond submitting it to authorities and the embassy.
Despite reports otherwise, former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
said the report had not been given to the Malaysian cabinet while he was
premier.

"Everybody here is treating it as if it's over," said a
well-placed political source in Kuala Lumpur. Prime Minister Najib Tun
Razak and other political figures hinted Saturday that the story about
Rais could have been brought up now, amid rumors of a cabinet reshuffle,
because his adversaries want him dropped from the government.

Any
possible physical evidence obviously has long ago disappeared and at
this point it would appear to be the maid's word against Rais's unless a
witness were to suddenly appear, and it seems doubtful that the matter
will go any further. Last week the minister issued an outraged statement
denying the allegations and charged that bloggers and opposition
parties were behind them. Rais dropped out of the running in 2007 to
become Commonwealth Secretary a week after the date on the Migrant Care
report on the allegations.

"I refute the allegations, whether
they are about raping any individual four years ago or any other
allegation, raised by bloggers on the Internet or by any political
entity," he said, calling the report "heaps of libellous statements and
awful, ugly and wicked lies."

The confrontation between Rais and
the bloggers started in September last year. The bloggers are more
closely connected to the United Malays National Organization than to the
opposition, including one called Rocky's Bru, written by Ahirudin Bin
Attan, President of the National Press Club of Malaysia, and a second,
only known as bigdogblogcom. Rocky's Bru historically has been closely
aligned with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad although insiders in
Kuala Lumpur say Mahathir didn't have anything to do with the current
controversy.

The two alleged that Rais' son's telecommunication
company was one of nine companies which had benefitted from the
government grant to develop the broadband connectivity access in
Malaysia.

Ahirudin wrote a blog entry calling the information
minister "Santa Rais" and intimating he had steered a RM1 billion
contract to improve the country's 3G and broadband reception to three
favored companies and hinting that Rais's son was somehow involved.

Rais
told local media that none of his family members was "even remotely
associated with those slanted and ill-intended allegations, and will
forthwith assert my rights under the law and report the matter to the
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) so that an investigation
could be under way".

He promptly filed a police report against
Ahirudin and the bigdogdotcom blogger, who were hauled up before the
Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and asked to explain
themselves.

The matter has also become a bone of contention
between the two countries, which have been deadlocked over treatment of
workers in Malaysia. Indonesia imposed a ban on allowing workers to go
to Malaysia in June after a series of high-profile cases in which
Indonesians were physically abused by their employers. Other issues
included the guarantee of minimum wages for migrant workers and who must
shoulder worker placement fees along with other issues. Indonesian
workers say employers hold their workers' passports and many don't allow
a weekly day off. Many Indonesian workers also complain that they are
barred from associating with fellow workers or contacting their embassy.

Neither Indonesia nor Malaysia has ratified Convention 98 on
freedom of association and collective bargaining. Indonesia has not
ratified Conventions 138 and 182 on abolishing child labor. Malaysia did
ratify Convention 105 on eliminating forced and compulsory labor in
1958, only to reverse its decision in 1990.