House Commission Urges Unified Response Over Ambalat Dispute

By webadmin on 12:58 am Jun 23, 2009
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Febriamy Hutapea

A defense and foreign affairs commission under the House of Representatives on Monday urged the Foreign Ministry to more effectively coordinate the government’s response to the ongoing border dispute in the oil-rich Ambalat waters off Borneo Island.

Lawmakers in the House’s foreign affairs commission said that there were a number of different views within the government on the Ambalat dispute.

This could hamper any diplomatic settlement between the Indonesian and Malaysian governments, they said.

“We still have different perceptions, so I hope the Foreign Ministry can coordinate with other bodies such as the Defense Ministry, police, Armed Forces and the House, so it can deal with the matter more effectively,” legislator Happy Bone Zulkarnain of the Golkar Party said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

Happy said the range of views was evident in recent statements regarding the Ambalat dispute. Statements by the Foreign Ministry appeared soft compared with those issued by the Armed Forces and the House, Happy said.

He said he was worried that the different opinions could undermine the government’s negotiations with Malaysia.

Legislator Andreas Pareira of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said that he was upset about the Foreign Ministry’s soft response to the issue.

He said the ministry should be firmer. “We shouldn’t be too polite [in dealing with the case],” Andreas said. “We should fight for sovereignty.”

Malaysia claims part of the Ambalat area based on a 1979 maritime chart, while Indonesia bases its claim on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Thirteen bilateral meetings have been held since 2005 to resolve the dispute, but the issue still has yet to be resolved.

The Foreign Ministry has sent 36 diplomatic notes to Malaysia about the matter since 1980.

Hassan said the negotiation process was not easy.

“The talks are still far from final,” he said.

“We’ve asked for the next meeting to be held in mid-July, but realistically the last negotiation won’t be easy to finalize.”

He noted that it took five years for Indonesia to resolve a smaller border dispute with Singapore. It took 32 years to settle another border problem with Vietnam.

“That’s the fact of the matter — border issues are not easy to solve,” he said.

Hassan, however, said he believed that Indonesia was on the right track and had a strong argument to claim sovereignty over the Ambalat region.

“We issued resource concessions in the Ambalat region far before Malaysia claimed it,” he said.