Kuala Lumpur – After weeks of exchanging sharp words and having their naval vessels “brush” against each other in a disputed area in the Sulawesi Sea, Malaysia and Indonesia have now pledged to make love, not war.
Visiting Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla described the dispute over the oil-rich Ambalat area as a “family problem” which could be resolved in the spirit of brotherhood.
Mr Kalla, who held a one-hour talk with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak on May 6, said he had come to Malaysia with just one message from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“Susilo’s only message is to settle all problems peacefully through dialogue for our mutual benefit,” Mr Kalla said at a joint press conference with Mr Najib.
The Malaysian DPM responded immediately by saying: “The message is: Make love, not war.” He said Malaysia would maintain a naval presence in the disputed area because the Malaysian Navy had “responsibilities to carry out.”
“As long as we do not show off our military strength, there should not be any problem. If we pass each other, we can wave at each other," said Mr Najib, who is also the Defence Minister.
The display of friendship between the two leaders was in sharp contrast to the cacophony of accusations and counter-accusations generated by both sides earlier. Tensions were made worse by the burning of the Malaysian flag by Indonesian protestors, perceived negative reporting in the Indonesian media and an April 8 incident in which naval vessels from both countries “brushed” against each other in Ambalat.
Mr Najib acknowledged that a solution to the border dispute might not be achieved overnight as complex issues were involved.
“But the most important thing is that there is the political will to, first of all, narrow the differences. You cannot solve the problem overnight but you can find common ground to narrow the differences. It is up to the leaders of the two countries to decide what to do next,” he added.
* Malaysia and Indonesia leaders agree to continue talks (The Star, May 7)
* RI VEEP: Whatever happens between Indonesia, M’sia is a family problem (Antara, May 6)