NOT much debating took place in the three-hour meeting between the Indonesian and Malaysian delegations at the Nikko Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, this meeting of the Indonesia-Malaysia General Border Committee ended with a number of important decisions. “There will be two new joint posts in 2008,” said Indonesian Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Edi Butar-Butar, who took part in the meeting.
The delegations were led by the respective Ministers of Defense of Indonesia and Malaysia, Juwono Sudarsono and Najib Tun Razak. The meeting did not take long because it was preceded by a meeting of their technical teams. Despite going by the theme of border security, they did not discuss the matter of land borders still in dispute. “This is deliberated in another meeting,” said Edi.
The General Border Committee is a forum in which the two countries regularly meet to discuss the issue of border security in general. Land borders are dealt with in a different forum. This year, the matter of land borders was discussed in ‘The Joint Malaysia-Indonesia on the Demarcation and Survey of the International Boundary’ in Genting Highlands, last July.
This meeting dealt with findings of a joint survey and demarcations made between May 1, 2005 and June 1, 2006. In all, there are still nine or 10 points along the land border which have still not been agreed upon by the two countries.
According to Kartiko Purnomo, Director of Administrative Regions and Borders for the Indonesian Department of Home Affairs, there is a difference in the number of points which have not been agreed upon. “Indonesia says 10, Malaysia says nine,” said Kartiko, who took part in the meeting at Genting.
These points are at: Tanjung Datuk, Sambas Regency, Point D400, the Gunung Raya area, Buan River, Batu Aum area, Point C500-600, Point B2700-B3100, Semantipal River, Sinapad River, and the Sebatik Island area. When contacted by Tempo, on Friday last week, officials at the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta could not give any clarifications on this matter.
Maj. Gen. G.R. Situmeang, Commander of the Tanjungpura 6th Regional Military Command, even mentioned the matter of the moving of a number of border markers in Tanjung Datuk. Based on his estimates, as a result of this movement Indonesia has lost about 64.8 hectares of land. L.H. Kadir, Deputy Governor of West Kalimantan, also made a report to the central government regarding the disappearance of a number of markers in 1,499 hectares of forest.
The land border between Indonesia and Malaysia in Kalimantan measures about 1,960 kilometers, almost twice the length of the Island of Java. Along the border between the Sambas regency in West Kalimantan and Sarawak, Malaysia, for instance, hundreds of markers have been reported missing or moved.
There are several types and sizes of border markers. They number about 1,600 or so. Type A markers, for instance, are pillars which are usually built 300 kilometers apart. Type B and C markers are small posts which are planted 5 to 50 kilometers apart. Type D markers are wooden stakes which are set up 25 to 200 meters apart. Many of the C and D type markers have disappeared or have been moved.
This issue has received serious attention because of the numerous reports of violations along the border. All along, says Brig. Gen. Butar-Butar, there have only been two joint posts, namely the Entikong Post in West Kalimantan and the Biawak Post in Sabah, Malaysia. “For this reason, it is hoped that these two new posts will be completed next year in order to minimize offenses,” he said. These two new posts are in Simanggaris, East Kalimantan and Seliku, Sabah, Malaysia.
This matter of the land border will be the main agenda for the meeting of the two countries in March 2008. This meeting indeed did not get to the heart of the matter. “We are going to come up with the joint terms of reference first,” said Kartiko Purnomo. At this time, he said, the two countries are drafting a mechanism to resolve border disputes.
In the matter of the land border, the basis of the two nations is the 1891 Treaty between Great Britain and The Netherlands. However, the two nations have their own interpretations of it. The Treaty does mention borders, but uses natural markers as reference points. “When the treaty was made, there was no satellite technology, so natural markers such as mountains, rivers, stone formations, and trees were used as references,” said Arif Havas Oegroseno, Director of International Agreements, Security, and Regional Affairs at the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs. Problems appeared because those markers can disappear or change.
Havas is not too worried about the matter of missing markers in some regions of Kalimantan. “In international agreements, the main reference is the legal basis, not just physical evidence,” he said. Kartiko added that Indonesia has been working to strengthen border law.
Abdul Manan, Harry Daya
Tempo Magazine, No. 16/VIII/December 18-24, 2007