Karya I Made Andi Arsana, ST., ME Batas Maritim Antarnegara - Sebuah Tinjauan Teknis dan Yuridis (Gadjah Mada University Press, 2007) more...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rethinking our borders

Border issue between Indonesia and Malaysia has been an interesting topic lately. This is, at least, indicated by news in Indonesian mass media. The issue of Askar Wataniah has been the topic almost all media cover in the last two weeks. Commission I of the Indonesian House of Representative revealed that Indonesian people are recruited as members of Malaysia’s Askar Wataniah in the border area of Kalimantan. This sparks controversy and questions of nationality and economic development. While the issue is yet to be confirmed, this reminds us that Indonesian government should to pay more attention to the people residing along border areas.

Standing on the side of Niagara River in the edge of New York and staring at Canada on the other side was an interesting experience. It was a real situation showing how physical and economic development in border area does really matter. People living in New York can easily see the face of Canada and observe how well-developed Canada is. At the same time, Canadians living along the side of Niagara River can also observe the situation in the US by staring New York on the other side of the river. I was convinced that the attention the US and Canada give to their border area can really define what people living there will think, say and do. There, in the border area, nationality can be easily questioned. Why would I stand here while there is better hope on the other side, which can be geographically reached without too much effort? This might be a typical question people living in border area would ask when they observe that the life on the other side of the fence is more promising.

Phenomena observed in the border Area of Kalimantan might be similar to what typically happen in border area around the Globe. If it is true that several Indonesians decided to Join Malaysia’s Askar Wataniah, the reason might not be lack of nationalism but simply pragmatic economic consideration. Jumadi, a researcher from University of Tanjung Pura confirmed that infrastructure and public facilities in Sabah and Sarawak are much better than that in Kalimantan (TVRI, 15 February 2008). This indicates that the difference in prosperity between the two States, Indonesia and Malaysia, is admitted. Consequently, it is not difficult to understand that there might be tendency of Indonesians living in the border area to favor Malaysia. Even though Mr. Legowo of the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs has asserted that there is no Indonesian recruited as the member of Askar Wataniah, this issue should be brought into government’s attention.

Technically, border points deal with fixed coordinates that surveyed using adequate technology, equipment and method. For the field survey, the role of geodetic surveyors is significant. The use of sophisticated technology and scientific approach is a must to achieve accurate coordinates of border points. In addtition, collaboration between the two neighboring States during the establishment of border points is inevitable. However, the agreement is not the end of the story. Implementation and law enforcement that follow, most of the time, are much more complicated. For instance, no matter how accurate the coordinates of border markers are, issue of border marker shift and removal raises from time to time. This is also a big issue in the border between Indonesia and Malaysia in Borneo. Geodetic surveyors can survey and calculate accurate coordinates of border points but not much they can do when there is no commitment from both sides to respect the agreement.

Concerning the issue of territorial claim, it is true that we, theoretically, do not have to worry about our sovereignty. No State can claim our official territory. This includes all small outer islands, which have been officially recognized as parts of our archipelago. However, experience shows that issues of sovereignty and sovereign rights are really sensitive. People are always anxious that we may lose islands or land territory if our government does not put adequate attention. This is not fully correct but it does tell us something. We do not only deal with sovereignty and sovereign rights issues. There are some others to consider such as social issues, economic considerations, trust of the people to government, etc. The fact that people in Miangas Island to the North of Manado are much more familiar with Peso, Tagalog, and Phillipino GSM, for example, is an indication that there is something we should improve. It is true that the Philippines cannot claim Miangas Island as part of its territory but this can also be seen as social and political threat, to an extent.

Notwithstanding the possibility of nationalism degradation causing social problems in border area, this is the time for us to seriously think about the life of our people residing there. The main problem, in my opinion, is actually lack of development. When there is no option available in our home, than it is understandable when people think about opportunity on the other side of the fence. Government may say we have to be patient and understand our situation. However, life difficulties and starvation are not the place where patience can grow properly. I guess we should do something.


Farid said...

I have two questions,

1. What should Our Government have to do immediately as reactions of this issue, which is related to boundary dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia?.

2. What kind of supporting act which Geodesy can give to this boundary dispute?.


I Made Andi Arsana said...

1. Government should clarify the issue whether it is true of not. Together with that, development should be done in border area. More attention is required.

2. Re-survey shifted border markers, Proposing SOP for border maintenance through regular survey.