Indonesia up in arms over “affronts” to its sovereignty

Updated On: Oct 02, 2007

Indonesia is increasingly disturbed by “affronts” to its sovereignty.

Not only are its nationals being abused when working in foreign countries, Indonesia also felt that its other interests are being undermined. As such, the Indonesian government is getting tough with those who they see as “purported bullies”.

Malaysia seems to be “Bully No.1” in Indonesia’s eyes for now. Already chafing over the shameful treatment of its labourers in Malaysia and angry at being looked down as “inferior” by its “bangsa serempun” counterpart, Indonesia is even more worked up by last week’s events involving Malaysian police and Indonesian nationals.

Didik Tirmardjono of the Indonesian consulate in Johor Bahru condemned publicly on Sunday (30 September) the gang-rape of a pregnant Indonesian woman in early September by 12 Malaysians who claimed to be from the police. He declared that Malaysia needed to take serious action to protect foreign workers from Indonesia as “robbery, beating, and arrest by Malaysian citizens who claimed themselves from the police against Indonesian workers have happened so many times”.

Earlier last week, Antara News had reported that the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is going to lodge a protest with the Malaysian foreign ministry about the arbitrary arrest and deportation of 24 Indonesian nationals who held legal and valid immigration documents. Indonesian officials are furious that “Indonesian nationals in Malaysia can any time be deported regardless of whether they have the required travel documents”, that the consulate-general was not informed of the deportation, and even declared that the incident made “it unsafe for Indonesians to stay in Malaysia”.On top of all this came the shooting of a stranded Indonesian police boat by the Malaysian marine police. Indonesian police said that the engine had stalled and thus had drifted illegally into Malaysian waters, upon which the Malaysian police had shot at it. Johor Police Chief Hussin Ismail has instead said that while on patrol, the police boat spotted the boat and ordered the crew to halt. However, shots were “fired at the boat's engine because the crew sped away despite being warned”. When rounded up, the crew was discovered to be from the Indonesian police.

Bantarto Bandoro, an international politics observer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that the case needed to be resolved in a rational manner so as to avoid creating more friction. He said, “Indonesia and Malaysia should refrain from emotional actions so that the truth in the shooting case can be uncovered.” This is akin to what Rizal Sukma, also of the CSIS, had said earlier on the conduct of bilateral relations between the two states –“more rationality, less emotionality” was the way forward.

On other matters, Director of the Indonesian Workers Protection at the Foreign Ministry Teguh Wardoyo, has announced that the Indonesian foreign ministry is urging the “Saudi Arabian courts to mete out heavy punishment against the employers of two Indonesian female domestic helpers accused of torturing the duo to death”. Apparently the employer of one victim is trying to persuade the victim’s family to accept “blood money” as compensation to avoid being jailed.

In addition, more rows with Singapore continue. Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono had said implementing arrangements (IA) needed to be made by Indonesia and Singapore for the application of their defence cooperation agreement (DCA) as a form of Singapore's formal recognition of Indonesia's sovereignty. This is because Singapore will be using part of Indonesian territory in the exercises andSingapore's formal recognition of Indonesia's territorial sovereignty is needed. Juwono then said that the 3 IAs were not being signed due to Singapore’s second thoughts on ratifying a related extradition treaty as it would mean that Singapore admitted that it had “accommodated Indonesian financial crime fugitives and their loot from 1997 to 2001”.

Singapore has refuted all these allegations, saying that this is not the first time Juwono has proclaimed untruths. It has maintained that everything remains contractual and Singapore wants it to remain that way in the signing of the pacts. Conversely, Indonesia’s last-minute changes are the obstacles to Singapore’s agreement as “the pacts are already settled and the terms cannot be altered without putting the whole package in jeopardy”.

On the business side, Temasek has also landed in trouble with the Indonesian authorities. As the special investigating team of the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) is divided on whether to find Temasek guilty of violating the anti-trust law, a new independent panel will be established to conduct deeper probe.

The recommendation to set up an independent panel follows a spate of seminars in the past few weeks on competition in the telco business, where references were made to the allegations against Temasek. At a discussion hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies last Thursday, the head of the LPEM, Mr Chatib Basri, dismissed reports that the study done by his researchers had strengthened the KPPU's case against Temasek. 

'The executive summary of our research clearly says that similarities in charge patterns provided by the operators cannot always be seen as an indication of price fixing,' he said.

Senior economist Pande Radja Silalahi, who chaired the discussion, also said that his study on the telco business had not found Temasek holding a monopoly in Indonesia's telco market. ' Temasek's market share in Indonesian mobile telecom industry, going by operating income, dropped from 21.56 per cent in 2004 to 21.11 per cent in 2005, and then to 20.12 per cent in 2006,' he said.

Temasek stands accused of monopoly as it indirectly holds shares in PT Telkomsel and PT Indosat, Indonesia's largest and second- largest cellphone operators. Under Indonesia’s anti-monopoly law, it is illegal for “a business entity to own majority shares in several companies operating in the same sector and dominate the market”. Temasek has claimed innocence, saying it is “not involved in investments or operational decisions of either SingTel or ST Telemedia”. ST Telemedia officials have also said that all “three companies are separate entitites with their own separate board of directors and that Temasek is not involved in business and operational decisions of the company”. It is uncertain if the claims by Singapore companies will be upheld if deeper intentions lie behind punishing purported monopoly perpetrators.  (1 October 2007)


Pregnant RI worker raped brutally in Malaysia (Antara, 1 October 2007)

Body of RI worker remains in Riyadh: Official (Jakarta Post, 1 October 2007)

Indonesia to protest arrest, deportation of workers by Malaysia (Antara, 30 September 2007)

Indonesia urges S Arabia to mete out heavy punishment on abusive employers (Antara, 30 September 2007)

New panel to rule on Jakarta probe into Temasek (Straits Times, 29 September 2007)

Jakarta pact: S'pore refutes 'stalling' claim (Straits Times, 28 September 2007)

RI-M'Sian Water Police Incident Must Be Solved At Agency Level: Observer (Antara, 27 September 2007)

Indonesian Police's Speed Boat Stranded in Malaysia's Water Due To Engine Failure (Antara, 27 September 2007)

Malaysian authorities shoot at trespassing boat carrying Indonesian police (AP, 27 September 2007)

IA Needed To Show S'pore's Recognition of RI's Sovereignty: Minister (Antara, 26 September 2007)

Indonesia KPPU Finishes Temasek Monopoly Probe - Chairman (Dow Jones, 26 September 2007)

Singapore: Minister Juwono Should Be Aware Of DCA Contents (Antara, 25 September 2007)