Past Attitudes Make RI Seas “Vulnerable”


By: Kusumasari Ayuningtyas

Past perspectives on marine borders have been blamed for the country’s weak stance on dealing with sea territories, says a historian.

Such perspectives have been deemed to have been influenced by the belief that the sea belonged to God and that everyone deserved to make use of it.

“People in the past, like those of the Majapahit kingdom, never thought of plotting and claiming the sea because they considered it as borderless,” said historian Singgih Tri Sulistiyono of the Semarang-based Diponegoro University (UNDIP) on Tuesday.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the 22nd conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia (IAHA) in Surakarta, Central Java, from 2 to 6 July.

Singgih, who is currently conducting research entitled “The Ocean Territory Border Concept of Indonesia: A Historical Perspective”, said that the border disputes on Sipadan and Ligitan Islands between Indonesia and Malaysia were influenced by a historical paradigm.

IAHA president Azyumardi Azra pointed out the significance of the conference to Indonesia given past incidents regarding sea territories.

“Our territory is very prone to claims by other countries. This has been our concern,” he said.

Taking the theme of “Remembering the Past, Experiencing the Present, Exploring the Future”, the conference is being attended by some 400 historians, historical and cultural authors as well as activists from 25 participating countries.

A total of 11 sub-themes are discussed during the conference, including on history, border community migrations, culture, gender, politics, democracy, security, defense, prosperity, disaster and health.

Participating countries are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Netherlands, North Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the US and Vietnam.

A tour of the renowned pre-historic human site of Sangiran in Sragen, Central Java, has been arranged for the participants.

Indonesia is hosting the conference for a third time after 1974 in Yogyakarta and 1998 in Jakarta.

The Surakarta municipal administration has taken the hosting opportunity to help boost its reputation as a MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition) city.

“We are presenting the city’s special culture in a bid to build the image of Solo as an impressive MICE city,” head of the Surakarta Culture and Tourism Agency Widdi Srihanto said, referring to the popular nickname of the city.

The conference officially commenced on Monday at the Sasana Ondrowino hall in the Kasunanan Surakarta Palace compound, with participants being accompanied to the palace by a traditional troop parade.


Notice: This news was cited from an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 4, 2012. It is also able to be reached at: [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 5 July 2012].

Kusumasari Ayuningtyas is a journalist of the Jakarta Post in Jakarta, Indonesia.



  1. I agree with Prof Dr Singgih’s statement. It is remembering me to the Samin movement in Blora, Central Java, that “lemah pada duwe, banyu pada duwe, alas pada duwe”. So, all belonged to God so that we are able to use it.

    When the colonial state as well as the nation state claimed that forest, seas, and so on belonged to the State, most of people — including us — are not ready to change the mindset.


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