on August 13, 2010.
The incident was triggered by the violation committed by Malaysian police in arresting three Indonesian marine officers who had caught seven Malaysian fishermen in the act of poaching in Indonesian waters.
The Indonesian officers finally were set free by the Malaysian government on August 17 almost coinciding with the release of seven Malaysian fishermen by Indonesia.
Since then, there has been an outrage among the Indonesian people who considered the Malaysian police were arrogant and had violated Indonesian territory while the Indonesian government was too soft in handling the incident.
Amid mounting public pressure, the House of Representatives (DPR)`s Commission I held a hearing with Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa and Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Dai Bachtiar at the Parliament Building in Jakarta, Wednesday (Aug 26) , to discuss the way the government had responded to the violation committed by Malaysia.
On the following day (Thursday, Aug 26), the results of the parliamentarian hearing made headlines in an number of dailies. The Jakarta Post`s headline read "House wants govt to take tough stance on Malaysia".
The English-language newspaper reported that lawmakers had asked the government to take firm diplomatic action against Malaysia, from demanding an apology and freezing bilateral ties to exploring possible military options.
Indonesia`s largest newspaper Kompas put a similar headline reading "Government Must Take Firm Action" (against Malaysia regarding the Bintan incident).
Another English-language daily, The Jakarta Globe put a front page story titled "With Both Sides Feeling Scorned, Row With Malaysia Far From Over".
In Republika Daily, the headline was more neutral, as it wrote: "Indonesia Speeds Up Border Negotations".
Media Indonesia, which is often critical of the government, made an interesting headline which read "Indonesia Being Trapped in Common Stock (`Serumpun`) Diplomacy."
The newspapers wrote that the Indonesian government, which tends to follow a `soft diplomacy`, is being trapped by a diplomacy pattern applied by the Malaysian government which is always
harping on the fact that Indonesia and Malaysia are of the same race, the Malay race, as a pretext to pursue discussions regarding all problems facing the two neighboring countries.
The Indonesian media reported that Tantowi Yahya, a legislator from the Golkar Party faction in the hearing with the foreign affairs minister said that "the zero enemies, million friends" policy often promoted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono does not mean that Indonesia should always be low profile in order to avoid hostility.
"When we are being insulted, we must not keep quiet. They (Malaysia) are making use of our (Malay) solidarity sentiment to belittle us," Tantowi Yahya said.
Prior to the uproar about the Bintan incident, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had said that in pursuing its active and independent foreign policy, Indonesia wants to have "a million friends, zero enemies."
In his state address on the 65th Independence Day at the Parliament Building last August 16, 2010, the President said the nation could follow all directions in its foreign policy amid the fast changing world constellation.
"We should continue to arouse the spirit of internationalism which prioritizes cooperation and partnership. We have to do it in the belief that our country will be safer, more prosperous and stronger when we have more friends, close friends and partners," he said.
However, not all parties fully agree with the way the nation should apply the "zero enemies" policy.
A number of lawmakers have urged the Indonesian government to demand an apology from Malaysia for the border violations.
If Malaysia failed to apologize, it meant the neighboring country did not respect and lacked good will toward Indonesia, Legislator Hayono Isman of the Golkar Party faction said on Thursday (Aug 26).
"But I am sure Malaysia will apologize to the Indonesian people,"he said.
Isman said Malaysia will lose in the economic sector if its bilateral ties with Indonesia deteriorate following its violations of Indonesian borders.
"Malaysia will lose if it fails to respect Indonesia. Malaysian investments will collapse because they depend on Indonesia," Hayono Isman, a member of the House of Representatives (DPR)`s Commission I, said at the parliament building .
Malaysia as the world`s largest palm oil exporter might face a production decrease as most of the workers on its oilpalm plantations are Indonesians, he said. "Our Ambassador to Malaysia Dai Bachtiar said there are two million Indonesian workers in Malaysia and they mostly work at oilpalm plantations," Hayono said.
The DPR`s Commission I dealing with defense, information and foreign affairs, would continue to follow developments related to the Bintan incident, he said.
"If there is no progress, we will bring the issue to a plenary meeting (of the Parliament) in order to gather more power and to show Malaysia that the case is very important and not a trivial matter. A plenary session of Parliament will mean , we have reached the limit of our patience," the legislator said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa at the parliamentarian hearing said that the government would speed up Indonesia-Malaysia border talks and was planning to have a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) meeting on September 6, 2010. ***1***
(T.F001/A/F001/A/H-YH) 26-08-2010 20:13:04