Tue, 15 Aug 2000

MPR changes definitions of territorial borders

JAKARTA (JP): Upon hearing expert advice, members of the People Consultative Assembly's (MPR) Commission A made a last- minute change to a constitutional amendment, which initially defined Indonesia's territorial borders using map coordinates.

During the last day of hearings, the commission charged with drafting constitutional amendments decided to scrap their initial definitions proposed in an article on state territory.

The article initially defined Indonesia as lying between 92 degrees and 141 degrees east longitude, seven degrees 20 minutes and 14 degrees south latitude.

Such a coordinate would result in Indonesia being confined to a limited "box", which also incorporates neighboring countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.

It was only after a hearing with several experts that the oversight was corrected.

"We finally agreed to change the article draft. We will not mention any coordinates because it would have too much negative impact on the country, especially on foreign affairs," Commission A deputy chairman Ali Masykur Musa said on Monday.

He said the article would now contain a more general definition of Indonesia as a united state using an archipelagic concept that includes land, air and sea along with those beneath sea level, including all the natural resources within.

Among the experts called in to brief the Assembly members was diplomat and maritime expert Hasyim Djalal along with members of the Coordinating Body for Survey and National Charting Development Board.

Hasyim Djalal warned that defining Indonesia's territory using the proposed coordinates might cause a strong outcry from neighboring countries as it could imply Indonesia was trying to claim their territory.

"Not everything beyond the mentioned coordinates can be categorized as Indonesian territory because there are several neighboring countries, and that will bring uneasiness to the diplomatic relationship," he said.

Hasyim also told The Jakarta Post that the initial draft would be in violation of the International Sea Convention.

"The international community has already approved Indonesia having 12 miles from the most outer point of the Indonesian archipelago and 200 miles of the exclusive economic zone," Hasyim added. (dja)