(The Straits Times) – It usually blows hot and cold in Indonesia-Malaysia ties. And it has turned decidedly chilly here over two issues — a longstanding territorial dispute over Ambalat, off Borneo, and the runaway Indonesian teen wife of a Kelantan prince.
The Indonesian media has been swamped with daily front-page stories and television talkshows about the latest “intrusion” into Ambalat by Malaysian warships, and the teenage model Manohara Odelia Pinot who claimed to have been abused by her husband.
In the midst of the Indonesian presidential campaign, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself commented on both issues on Tuesday. The President vowed there would be no compromise on Indonesia’s sovereignty over Ambalat, and expressed his concern over the model’s troubles.
Said analyst Bantarto Bandoro of the University of Indonesia: “Indonesians tend to view the two issues from purely nationalist eyes. It is only natural that nationalist sentiments are whipped up and anti-Malaysia sentiments are fanned.”
The Ambalat issue flared up again when Indonesia’s navy claimed it intercepted a Malaysian naval vessel encroaching 12 nautical miles into Indonesian waters in the Sulawesi Sea last Saturday. The disputed area is an oil-rich region.
Media reports here, quoting a naval spokesman, said Indonesian vessels were on the verge of opening fire on the Malaysian ship, which was chased back into Malaysian waters off Sabah. Kuala Lumpur has not commented on the incident.
Jakarta claimed it was the ninth “encroachment” this year.
Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said talks over the Ambalat issue with Malaysia had been on hold since April last year. “We are preparing a protest note to be sent to Malaysia” over the latest incident, he added.
Indonesian activists yesterday gathered in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta, protesting against the alleged mistreatment of Indonesian workers by Malaysian employers and referencing it to the Ambalat dispute, French news agency Agence France-Presse reported.
The case of 17-year-old Manohara, who at the weekend claimed to have “escaped” from her husband of nine months, the Kelantan prince, also elicited a stream of bad vibes in the local media and the Internet. Many expressed anger at the Malaysians, repeating past contentious issues between both sides.
These include the controversy over what Indonesia sees as Malaysian claims of ownership of the folk song “Rasa Sayang”, claims over batik and Javanese mask dance reog ponorogo, as well as alleged abuse of Indonesian workers in Malaysia.
Comments in the media on Ambalat and Manohara have focused on getting the authorities to take a hardline stance against Malaysia. One blogger, Arman Effendi, said: “It is still fresh in our minds the loss of Sipadan and Ligitan islands (to Malaysia) and the exploitation of Indonesian migrant workers.”
The oil blocks in Ambalat are close to Sipadan and Ligitan islands, whose ownership was disputed for years by Indonesia and Malaysia. The International Court of Justice awarded the islands to Malaysia in 2002.
Shortly before returning to Indonesia from the Asean-South Korea summit, Yudhoyono told Indonesian reporters that Jakarta would not tolerate Malaysia’s claim over Ambalat.
“Malaysia’s claim is unacceptable because the area is within Indonesia’s territory,” he said. “There will be no compromise but we will resolve the matter without risking peace and the relationship between Indonesia and our neighbouring country, Malaysia.”
On the Manohara case, he said he had told Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dai Bachtiar to look into it. “I told them to handle this issue fully and to be aware of the line between domestic affairs, spousal — or family — issues and human rights violations,” the Jakarta Globe quoted him as saying on Tuesday.
Both issues have also been taken up by parliamentarians, with deputy parliamentary commission chairman Yusron Ihza Mahendra saying yesterday that they were matters of concern.
Saying that Parliament would also summon Wirajuda for an explanation, Yusron said: “We don’t consider the Manohara case as a domestic issue. She is an Indonesian citizen who deserves to be protected. The Ambalat case is also getting hotter now. The manoeuvres by Malaysian naval vessels in Ambalat are acts of belittling Indonesia.”
Deputy Speaker Muhaimin Iskandar took a more hardline approach, warning that if Malaysia “continues to be difficult”, the Indonesian Parliament would approve confronting foreign intruders.
AK : I will die for my country but not for the Kelantan Prince!