Monday, October 26, 2009

Nothing's wrong with Malaysia-Indonesia ties

Nothing's wrong with Malaysia-Indonesia relations, says Deputy Foreign Minister Senator Kohilan Pillay at the Dewan Rakyat (read h e r e...).

Well, hope everything is fine. The bruhaha about a planned attack by a group of Indon vigilante last month was just a threat although it took the Malaysian security forces to be on high alert.Like it or not, we have been like India and Pakistan, China-Japan and England Argentina - loved and hatred relations that somehow has engaged the respective parties into more serious cooperation dialogues.

The trouble with storms in tea-cups is that they tend to spill over, at least a little.Indonesia and Malaysia have the same kind of relationship that the UK and France have had for centuries: a little rhetoric here and there but nothing ever happens.

For example, there's a continuing spat over maids: there are a lot of Indonesian maids in Malaysia. Every so often, something kicks off and gets far more attention than it deserves. For example, in 2003, some Indonesian maids employed by Chinese families decided that they were being treated disrespectfully because the families had dogs which the maids had to walk and ate pork which the maids had to cook.

No one thought to say that, if the maids considered either to be a real problem, they should not have taken the jobs. The fuss passed, but not until questions had been asked in Parliament and suggestions were made that work permits should be made available to Indonesian maids only to work in Muslim households. That didn't suit the maids: they feared loss of opportunity and lower pay (but produced no evidence to support either). The end result was that Indonesia stopped complaining and a diplomatic and commercial issue simply went away.

Long ago, Indonesians claimed that Malaysia's national anthem is a copy of an Indonesian song: music historians have said that the passages complained of are not Indonesian, either but from the middle east, centuries ago.

Earlier this year, Indonesia accused Malaysia of entering its territorial waters when a warship went to Ambalat - an area off the coast of Borneo that both countries claim: it is thought to be rich in oil and gas, products that shore up the economies of both countries. Indonesia claimed that it drove "the Malaysian fleet" away. The incident hardly made the news in Malaysia.

The irony is that the two fleets work together in anti-piracy and anti-terrorism patrols in the South China Sea and the Andaman Sea, particularly the notorious Melacca Straits. The border dispute has been rumbling on for about five years since both Malaysia and Indonesia awarded exploration and drilling concessions in their own waters, but with some parts overlapping and some in the disputed waters.

Indonesians are still smarting over a 2002 International Court of Justice decision which decided that two bits of barren rock called Sipidan and Ligitan belonged to Malaysia: previously, they had not belonged to anyone. But so far as Indonesia is concerned, the islands were not just land-masses but also brought territorial rights over sea that Indonesia had, in effect, annexed.

Several weeks ago, Indonesians noticed that a promotional video for Malaysia included an Indonesian dance in its "Malaysia, Truly Asia" campaign. They claimed that Malaysia was trying to steal tourists from Indonesia, and that Malaysia has no culture of its own to display.

Again, ministers from both countries got involved. Malaysia said that the video had been produced by a foreign company and that it had simply confused similar dances in both countries. But, honestly, the dance is almost a generic dance across the whole of South East Asia where there is Hindu influence - and that means everywhere there is Buddhism.

Then there were calls to declare batik (painting onto silk) to be defined as an Indonesian craft. That, too, belies the fact that the craft, in one form or another, is practised across dozens of civilisations. It suddenly became an issue in the middle of this year when several European design houses featured batik in their collections.

And then actress Jessica Alba was photographed in a dress made from batik said to be of a traditional Indonesian design from the district of Jogjakarta (sometimes spelt Yogyakarta), the city that was once Indonesia's capital.

But amusing as these issues seem to outsiders, they are providing a fertile ground for anti-Malaysian sentiment amongst some Indonesians. And new media is enabling mass communications to create ill-will on a rapid and startling scale. One widely read blog made much of the warship incident, making a thinly veiled call-to-arms to defend the territory but to stop short of war. It ended that Malaysia would not go to war "as it'll cost them a lot more."

Neither government considers the issues of the border to be "a dispute." They merely say that there is an issue that needs to be resolved and, in time, they will come to an agreement. Neither government is, seemingly, in any rush to resolve it and infrequent meetings are held at which something is discussed but little or nothing is decided.

But some Indonesians are not prepared to wait: some consider the whole of Borneo to be Indonesian territory and resent the fact that it is partitioned. Indeed, in the 1960s, Indonesia formally invaded the Malaysian part of Borneo in a series of bloody incursions but were defeated.

There was also a small and easily frustrated attempt to invade peninsular Malaysia in 1963, when Indonesia sensed that Malaysia was potentially fragmenting as Singapore left the Federation after a brief membership. The Indonesians were led by Sukarno, widely regarded as a despotic leader. Indonesia entered a period of relative domestic and regional peace after a coup by General Suharto displaced him.

Following the fuss over the pendet dance, an Indonesian group calling itself BENDERA started a PR campaign that was taken up by bloggers, and responses in blogs from both sides came thick and fast.

BENDERA stands for Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat and it claims that its mission is to "avenge all the wrongs done to Indonesia." It claims to have a slogan of "Kill Malaysians" and reportedly set up illegal roadblocks in parts of Jakarta last month, saying that they intended to "sweep our streets clear of Malaysians."

The group claims to have built a stock of Samurai swords and pointed bamboo poles, plus bows and arrows ready for their invasion of Malaysia.

And they have fixed a date: it's going to be today, they say.

Both the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have said that the whole thing is stupid. Unfortunately, sufficient people think it's a real threat that the police in Kuching in Malaysia's Sarawak state have increase patrols. And both sides have increased border and sea patrols in a show of unity that belies the suggestion of genuine tension.

BENDERA said that it intended to invade by "land, sea and air."

However, it subsided when Datuk Najib Tun Razak met Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently. The fire has been put off.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry is livid that the country's reputation is being tarnished by what it calls "an unregistered group." They described the supposed invasion as "ridiculous," pointing out that their stated intention to send 1,500 people armed, largely, with sharpened sticks would be defeated as soon as they arrived at a border crossing.

That might be right if the border was strictly policed but running, as it does, through hilly jungle terrain, border security is not absolute.

It was giving too much coverage to the story and that it was giving publicity to the group, causing concern amongst populations in both countries and, worse, might encourage people to think they should join in.

Again, Malaysia took the initiative by inviting senior Indonesian journalists for a dialogue in Kuala Lumpur this month, thus clearing the air. But, for how long?


cikgu tari said...

Sdr bujai,
hubungan malaysia-indonesia amat akrab walaupun wujud beberapa isu di antaranya.

rakyat indonesia harus sedar bahawa ramai orang malaysia adalah berketurunan indonesia, misalnya minang, jawa, bugis dan sebagainya. jadi, soal budaya, tarian, makanan dan sebagainya sudah pun dibawa masuk ke negara ini ratusan tahun dahulu.

tidak adil jika ada pihak di indonesia menuduh malaysia menciplak budaya mereka, walhal budaya itulah yang dibawa masuk ke sini oleh datuk-nenek dan moyang kita dari negara itu suatu ketika dahulu.

rakyat indonesia seharusnya bangga kerana budaya mereka diwarisi bukan saja di indonesia malah di malaysia dan negara lain.

ini mencerminkan betapa indah dan uniknya budaya yang ada.

mat jawa, kelang said...

pm dah cakap, takda turun-naik dalam hubungan malaysia dan indonesia.

cuma segelintir pihak yang sengaja ingin mempolitikkan keadaan, mungkin kerana kepentingan peribadi.

saya mahu lihat rumpun melayu ini terus akrab.

petrus, batam said...

no big deal.

shouldnt be any kind of bickering over anything.

both have strong political and diplomatic tools to attend to things like this

A. Alshukor said...

Ada orang gila kat mana mana.

Itu biasalah, tapi bila orang gila ni mula mengila, dia buka kira pun.
Dulu Soekarno pun gila nak ganyang kita, tapi ....

Mat Indon yang datang Malaysia, sebenarnya susah hati juga, nanti mis syoru.

Mak bapa yang hantar anak belajar kat Indonesia susah hati juga, mana nak cari Universiti yang agak baik denga harga rendah.

jadi semua orang harus menghormati antara satu sama lain.

Untung lah semuanya.

Anonymous said...

samada kita warga Malaysia atau warga Indonesia, konfrontasi secara pisikal atau perang mulut, hanya memberi ruang kepada musuh-musuh kedua-dua negara mengapi-apikan mengeruhkan keadaan. kita adalah bangsa melayu serumpun, semestinya mengunakan saluran diplomatik dan berdialog... semoga kedua-dua negara Indonesia dan Malaysia hidup aman, damai, sering membantu satu sama lain, dan rakyatnya sejahtera dan harmoni selalu...INSYALLAH

abang lembut said...

Yang buat kacau ni, Cina DAPlah. Tengok kes pembantu mati ke atau kena seksa, siapa orang nya? Yang merosakkan nama Malaysia kat UK tu pun berpuluh ribu oran Cina DAP yang jadi PATI. Nik Aziz nak jugak berpeluk dgn Kit Siang.

Abdul Jalil said...

bujai, saya rasa sebilngan media indonesia suka keluarkan berita berbentuk provokasi. saya masih ingat bca paper di jakarta semasa isu sipadan dimana dlm artikel tu peta lokasi sipadan sengaja diletakkan jauh kedalam wilayah indonesia bertujuan mengelirukan pembaca seolah2 malaysia nak menjajah wilayah indonesia
saya harap hubungan antara rakyat akan tetap ikrab kerana kita saling memerlukan satu sama akan berubah sikap kepada memupuk bukan mengkropok hubungan ini

bujai said...

sdr abdul jalil,

provokasi media memang wujud sejak lama dahulu. inilah antara faktor yang mengapi-apikan lagi sentimen kecil yang ada.

rais yatim bertindak betul bila menjemput sekumpulan wartawan kanan indonesia ke kuala lumpur baru-baru ini bagi meminta kerjasama mereka memelihara hubungan malaysia-indonesia yang selama ini sudah cukup baik.

usaha sebegini perlu diteruskan.

Anonymous said...

sometimes, the maid abuse ignites the anger among indonesians.

there was another a few days ago when the employer killed his maid.

all cases were done by the non-malays employers who treated them like dogs. in the end, the whole malaysians were blamed, including the malays.

suryadi, kepong said...


hubungan kita masih kukuh. sdr sendiri memberi analisis yang seimbang bagi memperjelaskan keadaan.

kita seharusnya mampu menikmati hasil yang baik daripada hubungan akrab ini dan tidak perlu terlalu menonjolkan isu kecil.

saya ialah rakyat indonesia yang memiliki status pemastautin di malaysia dan saya sendiri sudah tinggal lebih 20 tahun di sini.

segalanya baik di sini. malah rakan-rakan dari indonesia di sini juga menghargai keperihatinan kerajaan malaysia terhadap nasib dan masa depan mereka.

kes-kes bunuh dan samun yang dilakukan oleh rakyat indonesia memang ada tetapi ia cuma beberapa orang yang rekod mereka di indonesia pun tidak berapa baik.

jadi, saya berharap kita semua yang menjadi rakyat melayu dan islam serumpun ini bakal menjalin hubungan lebih baik demi kepentingan bersama.

terima kasih

Anonymous said...

the sipadan and ligitan case, i think we have to respect the verdict of the ICJ.

lets not go down the history as malaysia was the loser

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