Wednesday, May 31

What Indonesian invasion?


THE talk of the town is how an army of cultural warriors from Indonesia is going to climb over mountains separating Sarawak and West Kalimantan bearing samurai swords, sharpened bamboo poles, bow and arrows, and launch an attack on Kuching City.The first wave of such an invasion was scheduled for October 8, but was said to have been postponed by one day.

Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta earlier, the co-ordinator for Indonesia’s Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat (Bendera) Mustar Nona Ventura announced that 1,300 volunteers will depart for Malaysia between October 9 and 22, including 50 medics, to take revenge on what they perceive as all the insults and injuries that our country has inflicted upon Indonesia.

He also claimed that 8,000 Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia also supported their cause.

The Malaysian government has taken these threats seriously. Even our Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has weighed in, expressing his concern for the Indonesian authorities to take the necessary actions to maintain the good relation between the two neighbouring countries.

Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat (Bendera ) claims that its mission is to “avenge all the wrongs done to Indonesia”. It claims to have a slogan of “Kill Malaysians” and reportedly set up illegal roadblocks in parts of Jakarta last month, saying that they intended to “sweep our streets clear of Malaysians.”

Meanwhile, Sarawak Police Commissioner Datuk Mohmad Salleh said patrols by the General Operations Force had been doubled, especially at the Tebedu and Serikin border posts and several illegal trails at the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

The Bendera tirade does touch a raw nerve in Sarawak.

Older Sarawakians still have vivid memories of the Indonesian Konfrontasi launched by President Sukarno around the time of the formation of the Malaysian Federation in 1963. At that time, Indonesia made territorial claim upon Sarawak.

On April 12, 1963, a small force of 30 or so armed raiders from Indonesia attacked and seized the police station in Tebedu, 60 km from Kuching. All in all, 120 incidents of armed clashes occurred on the border between Sabah/Sarawak and Kalimantan. Finally, the Indonesian invaders were repelled by a combination of British, Gurkha and Malayan troops.

That was a long time ago. Both Malaysia and Indonesia have undergone transformational political, economic and social changes. Both have become part of the backbone of the increasingly influential regional bloc called Asean. Both have established themselves as stable and fast growing economies in the region.

While there has been spate of minor verbal scuffle on territorial claims over some islands in the past, and the odd outbursts in Indonesia over what they perceive as cultural thefts of their traditional legacies, the relationship between these two countries at the official level has remained cordial and firm.

In Sarawak, the quiet but vibrant trade between West Kalimantan and Sarawak has been a lifeline for many Indonesians and Sarawakians. Tebedu now serves as a lively outpost for the flow of goods and people between our two nations. Cars bearing Indonesian number plates parked outside Kuching hotels are now a common sight.

The Dayak people in West Kalimantan and Sarawak have also begun to cultivate their common cultural roots. Historians from both Malaysia and Indonesia who met recently in a forum in Tanjong Pinang, capital of Indonesia’s Riau Island province, have also pointed out how our two countries share more regional and cultural roots than we have differences.

The police and the security forces are right to take the Bendera threats seriously, and border security ought to be beefed up, just in case. That is their job. You never know what kind of overzealous nationalist crackpots there are out there.

But there is no need for Sarawakians to panic at all. We should be vigilant at all times against criminal elements from within and without, but we are not likely to see hoards of Indonesian cultural warriors attacking innocent civilians with samurai swords and sharpened bamboo sticks on the streets of Kuching any time soon.

In fact, it is gratifying to see that Malaysians and Sarawakians have remained calm in the face of all these outrageous verbal provocations from the odd balls on the streets of Jakarta. The best way to treat nonsense of that kind is to ignore it.

Malaysia and Indonesia will remain friends for a long time, despite some trouble-makers who need to have their head examined.