Kuala Lumpur - Since the territorial spat in the Sulawesi Sea broke out in mid-February, several Indonesian papers have adopted an aggressive stance towardsMalaysia. Now, they stand accused of irresponsible fabrication by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Many of the “untrue reports and accusations” were related to the April 8 incident in which an Indonesian warship and a Malaysian naval vessel "brushed" against each other while patrolling the disputed maritime border.
Mr Najib, who is also the Defence Minister, is especially upset over an April 15 report in Kompas, a vernacular newspaper. The Kompas report quoted the head of the Indonesian Navy’s Information Department, First Admiral Abdul Malik Yusuf, as saying that Mr Najib had made a verbal apology to the Indonesian Defence Attache in Malaysia, Colonel Hartind Hazrin, over the naval encounter.
Mr Najib said he had neither met Col Hartind nor discussed the incident with him. "There seems to be lots of fabrication, lots of lies by the (Indonesian) media to worsen the situation for their own agenda. We will see whether we have grounds to sue them," Mr Najib said on April 17.
On April 13, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dismissed as untrue claims by the Indonesian media that he had telephoned Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the naval encounter.
According to Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, the Indonesian media's aggressive stance towards Malaysia stems from jealousy at the country’s success.
While the controversy over the Indonesian press coverage has only just begun, the affair which started it all - the "brushing incident" on April 8 - is deemed as settled by the chiefs of the two countries' navies.
"We consider the incident as being over. We even hope to hold joint patrols," Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Slamet Soebijanto, said after meeting his Malaysian counterpart, Admiral Muhammad Anwar, in Batam on April 15.
* Indonesia media reports: Malaysia may take legal action (New Straits Times, April 18)
* Syed Hamid: Indon media jealous over Malaysia’s success (The Star, April 16)
* RI, Malaysian navies consider warship incident over (Antara, April 15)