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Rethinking our borders with Malaysia
2008-2-20 17:22:14counter(0)  Writer:***   字体:A+ A-
Rethinking our borders with Malaysia

I Made Andi Arsana, Yogyakarta

The border issue between Indonesia and Malaysia has been an interesting topic lately. This is what, at least, has indicated by news in Indonesia's mass media.

The issue of Askar Wataniah has been a topic almost all media have covered in the last two weeks.

Commission I of the Indonesian House of Representative revealed that Indonesian people are recruited as members of Malaysia's Askar Wataniah in the border area of Kalimantan.

This has sparked controversy and questions of nationality and economic development.

While the issue is yet to be confirmed, this reminds us the Indonesian government should pay more attention to those people residing along border areas.

Standing on the side of Niagara River in the edge of New York and staring at Canada on the other side was an interesting experience.

It shows how physical and economic development in a border area does really matter. People living in New York can easily see the face of Canada and observe how well-developed Canada is.

At the same time, Canadians living along the side of the Niagara River can also observe the situation in the U.S. by staring at New York on the other side of the river. I was convinced the attention the U.S. and Canada gives to their border area can really define what people living there will think, say and do.

There, in the border area, nationality can be easily questioned. Why would I stand here while there is better hope on the other side, which can be geographically reached without too much effort?

This might be a typical question for people living in border areas. They would likely ask this when they observe that life on the other side of the fence is more promising.

This phenomena is observed in the border area of Kalimantan and might be similar to what typically happens in border area around the Globe.

If it is true that several Indonesians decided to join Malaysia's militia Askar Wataniah, the reason might not be lack of nationalism but simply a pragmatic economic consideration.

Jumadi, a researcher from University of Tanjung Pura, confirmed that infrastructure and public facilities in Sabah and Sarawak are much better than that in Kalimantan (TVRI, Feb. 15, 2008).

This indicates the difference in prosperity between the two states, Indonesia and Malaysia, is admitted.

Consequently, it is not difficult to understand that there might be a tendency for Indonesians living in the border area to favor Malaysia.

Even though Legowo of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asserted there is no Indonesian recruited as the member of Askar Wataniah, this issue should be brought to the government's attention.

Technically, border points deal with fixed coordinates that were created via surveys using adequate technology, equipment and methods. For the field survey, the role of geodetic surveyors is significant.

The use of sophisticated technology and scientific approach is a must to achieve accurate coordinates of border points.

In addition, a collaboration between the two neighboring states during the establishment of border points is inevitable. However, the agreement is not the end of the story. Implementation processes and law enforcement requirements that follow, most of the time, are much more complicated.

For instance, no matter how accurate the coordinates of border markers are, the issue of border markers, their shift and removal is raised from time to time.

This is also a big issue in the border between Indonesia and Malaysia in Borneo.

Geodetic surveyors can survey and calculate accurate coordinates of border points but there is not much they can do when there is no commitment from both sides to respect the agreement.

Concerning the issue of a territorial claim, it is true that we, theoretically, do not have to worry about our sovereignty. No state can claim our official territory. This includes all small outer islands, which have been officially recognized as parts of our archipelago.

However, experience shows that issues of sovereignty and sovereign rights are really sensitive.

People are always anxious that we may lose islands or land territory if our government does not provide adequate attention. This is not fully correct but it does tell us something.

We do not only deal with sovereignty and sovereign rights issues.

There are some others to consider such as social issues, economic considerations, public trust in the government, etc.

The fact that people in Miangas Island to the North of Manado are much more familiar with Peso, Tagalog, and Phillipino GSM, for example, is an indication that there is something we should improve.

It is true that the Philippines cannot claim Miangas Island as part of its territory, but this can also be seen as social and political threat, to an extent.

Notwithstanding the possibility of nationalism degradation causing social problems in border areas, this is the time for us to seriously think about the life of our people residing there. The main problem, is actually lack of development.

When there is no option available in our home, then it is understandable when people think about an opportunity on the other side of the fence.

Governments may say we have to be patient and understand our situation. However, life difficulties and starvation are not a place where patience can grow properly.

The writer is lecturer in the Department of Geodetic Engineering, Gadjah Mada University and is an observer of border issues. Opinion expressed here is his own.

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