Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Ambalat Dispute

In times of presidential election campaign, competing candidates would seek and expose any bad sides of its opponents to the public, especially when one of the candidates is an incumbent President. That way, they can hope that people would cast their vote for them.

One of the top targets in this year’s election is the territorial dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia over a 15,235 square kilometer territorial waters bordering both countries of the eastern coast off the Island of Kalimantan (Borneo) known as the Ambalat Block.

In an interview with ANTV last night, President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono has made it clear that Indonesia will not be hesitant to defend sovereignty over the Ambalat waters. However, considering that Indonesia & Malaysia are parts of ASEAN, we will give priority to settle the dispute amicably.

The Jakarta Post wrote an article which questions whether the dispute is necessary, and whether the dispute actually exists. For the first question, most Indonesian and Malaysian would probably say yes, because the disputed territory is estimated to contain as much as 764 million barrels of oil and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.
As for the second question, there are speculations that the dispute was merely a cover-up for an election campaign to win the hearts of the people in connection with the upcoming presidential election. Because the border violation by a Malaysian warship on June 2 was not the first time. Last year, Malaysia was reported to have violated 28 times. This year alone, Malaysian warships have allegedly trespassed across the border nine times. Considering these frequent violations, it is surprising that our side, at least publicly, has not adopted more serious measures to confront Malaysia.

Kompas has quoted the Coordinating Minister for Law & Security Affairs, Widodo A.S, as saying that the Indonesian & Malaysian governments are currently having talks to settle the dispute. Therefore, he requested Malaysia to respect the ongoing talks.
According to a spokesman of the Foreign Depatment, Teuku Faizasyah, Indonesia has sent 36 protest notes to Malaysia about their violations made by their patrol boats in the Ambalat waters. The first protest note was sent in 1980 and the last one on 4 June 2009. By sending those notes, Indonesia wanted to make it clear that the Ambalat waters are part of the Indonesian sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Radio Australia reported that Malaysia's military chief Abdul Aziz Zainal denies Malaysian warships entered the disputed zone, adding that he will visit Jakarta next week to discuss the issue.

Aside from speculations that the Ambalat dispute is part of an election campaign scenario to win the hearts of Indonesian public's in connection with the presidential election on 8 July, if the dispute continue and remain unsettled, it would create disharmony between both governments, as well as among citizens of both countries.


Ismail N said...

It pretty sad to see that the dispute come at times when both country were facing problems internally whereby the ruling govt is trying hard to fend off challenge by the opposition party. Both govt knows that anything less than win-win situation will draw critism from the people and making them less popular, thus, paving the way for the opposition to grab the power. I hope both parties can find a solution and the dispute will be settled amicably. Let's hope there will be no repeat of Malaysia-Indonesia confrantation in the future.

Harry Nizam H. said...

Hi Ismail,
It's good to see & hear from you again. Thank you for your visit and comment.
I completely agree with you. Politicians tend to use any thing as fighting tools against their political opponents.
I hope that things will cool down very soon.