Sunday, October 16, 2011

Malaysian bogeyman in Jakarta

Again, Malaysia has been made the fallguy in Indonesia's political in-fighting. Kuala Lumpur still needs to come clean on allegations made over border issues with Indonesia.

Shortly after a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart on Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa continued to be hounded by the Indonesian and Malaysian media.

They followed him after he left the room and when the ever-obliging Marty saw an empty sofa, he sat down and spent another 15 minutes with the reporters.

For the Malaysian media, the issue was the never-ending problem of domestic maids from Indonesia.For the Indonesian reporters, the latest hot issue was the allegations by an Indonesian lawmaker that Malaysia had moved border markers between Sabah and Sarawak and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

When the issue was first raised last weekend, a Jakarta-based Malaysian official predicted it was a timebomb.

His warning turned out to be true. Barely 24 hours after Marty said in Kuala Lumpur that it was not Malaysia's fault, a big group of rowdy Indonesian demonstrators converged at the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta, throwing sticks and stones.

More protests are expected.

Truly, this latest episode has nothing to do with Malaysia at all.

It is local politics at play.

It all started when T.B. Hasanuddin, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, told local media that Malaysia had claimed Indonesia's border in Camar Bulan and Tanjung Datu in West Kalimantan.

Hasanuddin alleged that the border marker stone had declined 3.3km beyond the original border. As a result, he further alleged that Indonesia could potentially lose more than 1,400ha of land.

Some quarters blame the pending Cabinet reshuffle by the president next week as one of the reasons for the latest episode.

Others also see the latest round of allegations and protests as an attempt to erode the image of the president.

It is unfortunate really that Malaysia is again made the fallguy for Indonesian politics.

Still, Kuala Lumpur needs to manage and rectify the negative perception.
The Government needs to set the record straight on allegations that the stone markers were moved.

Border demarcation work is a long process. According to records, between 1978 and 2004, about 2,000km have been demarcated along the Sabah/Sarawak borders with Kalimantan.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are having their annual consultation in Lombok next week and, hopefully, things will get calmer by then and Malaysians need not be worried for their safety, whether in Jakarta or along the borders. Mergawati Zulfakar (The Star), The Asia News Network

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