Monday, 11 April 2011

Dispute with Indonesia may be referred to third party: Malaysian FM

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah
Malaysian foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said on Sunday 10th April that the border dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia may need to be referred to a third party or to international arbitration if ongoing talks to resolve the matter remain deadlocked.

The comment marked a major change in attitude, as both sides had previous avoided suggestions of third party intervention, saying they would be able to resolve the issue bilaterally.

Anifah spoke to Malaysian reporters in Jakarta, which he was visiting as part of an ASEAN-Japan meeting. His comments reflected the stalemate the border negotiations have long been at. He said that the technical border committee had met 18 times over the past seven years, but that no progress has been made because both sides refused to compromise.

"If we can't solve its technical aspects, then we can't solve its political aspects and we want to avoid untoward incidents. So there may be a need for us to refer this to a third party for solution,” he was quoted in Malaysian news agency Bernama as saying.

"At the moment though, it has not reached to that stage. InsyaAllah we will try our best to find ways to solve this problem," he told reporters.

Anifah highlighted the importance of the solving the dispute to provide territorial certainty, especially to fishermen, who frequently encounter problems when fishing near the borders.

A group of Malaysian fishermen are currently being held by Indonesian authorities, accused on encroaching into Indonesia's territory in Riau on 8th March.

Speaking on the issue, Anifah said that Malaysian authorities had reported that the Indonesian enforcement agency's boat had encroached into Malaysian waters.

"I don't want to say who is right or who is wrong. Indonesia will say they are right and I have confidence in what our authorities have reported, but what is important is the manner in which we deal with this," he said.

"This is what complicate matters and I have brought this issue to the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Marty Natalegawa, on the sidelines of the meeting yesterday that if we continue to delve into who is right and who is wrong, then we won't be able to come up with a solution," he said.

A further issue emerged when two Malaysian boats were detained by Indonesian authorities in the Malacca Strait last week, on suspicion of fishing illegally with trawl nets. Malaysia officially protested against Indonesia's detention of the two ships on Friday 8th April, according to the Jakarta Post. A spokesman for Indonesia's embassy in Malaysia, Suryana Sastradiredia, said the embassy had recieved the letter, which argued that the boats were fishing in Malaysian waters in the Malacca Strait, not Indonesian waters.

The letter also said that two helicopters sent to the scene by the Malaysian Navy were threatened by the Indonesian sea patrol with guns.

Anifah commented on this issue to reporters, and reiterated the Malaysian stance that it was the Indonesian boat that had violated international law. He said that the boats were seized in Hutan Melintang, Perak on the Malaysian side of the Malacca Strait, about 45 km from the maritime border.

Anifah said video recordings showed that the Indonesian fisheries enforcement agency had entered Malaysian waters and had towed the Malaysian boats into their territory.

Anifah said he had conveyed his concern over the issue to Natalegawa.

Sources: Jakarta Post, Bernama, BNO News

For more information on the dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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