Tue, 04 Feb 2003

New body needed to examine national borders

Kurniawan Hari The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Despite assurances from the foreign ministry that there is no threat of territorial loss after the Sipadan-Ligitan case, National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) Governor Ermaya Suradinata urged on Monday the establishment of an interdepartment agency to deal with border issues.

Ermaya said such an agency was necessary to prevent further border disputes with neighboring countries and possible territorial loss as happened in the Sipadan-Ligitan case won by Malaysia.

"This country should promptly set up an agency to focus on national borders," Ermaya told a hearing with House Commission I for defense and foreign affairs on Monday.

The new body, he said, would also be tasked with drawing up a bill on territorial borders.

Potential border problems exist due to the fact that Indonesia shares borders with a number of countries, he said.

The body would clarify national borders from the aspect of continental borders, marine borders and exclusive economic zones.

Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said there was no threat of territorial loss after the defeat of Indonesia in the legal battle over Sipadan and Ligitan islands.

Marty said if the country lost another island, it would be more likely due to subsiding than a legal dispute with a neighboring country.

Legislators meanwhile expressed support for the proposal to form an agency and to outline a bill on territorial borders.

Isac Latuconsina, deputy commission chairman from the Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police faction in the House, said he fully backed the idea. He, however, suggested that the government should take the lead.

"The government must take the initiative (to outline a bill on territorial borders) because it has equipment for mapping," Isac told The Jakarta Post after the meeting.

A fellow legislator from the United Development Party (PPP), Nadhier Muhammad, said the bill on territorial borders would be drawn up in anticipation of any territorial disputes.

Nadhier said the country should learn from the loss of Sipadan and Ligitan islands.

"We must anticipate it to prevent a recurrence of the case," he said, referring to the ruling of the World Court, previously called the International Court of Justice, which ruled that Sipadan and Ligitan belonged to Malaysia.

Besides discussing territorial borders, the hearing also talked about terrorism.

Ermaya again suggested that the government form an agency that would define terrorism and its operational network so as to contain it.

He emphasized that there must be a clear definition of terrorism that could be used as a national reference.

Legislators will soon start deliberating four bills on terrorism that were drafted by the government.