By: I Made Andi Arsana
On the day Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands, its territory and jurisdiction were less than what we see today, especially for the maritime area. The maritime area between Kalimantan and Java, for example, was considered as high seas (free seas) where foreign vessels could sail freely.
At that time, Indonesia inherited law regarding maritime area from the colonial power, the Netherlands. It was the 1939 Ordinance concerning Territorial Sea and Marine Environment under which Indonesia is entitled to only 3 nautical miles (around 5.6 kilometers) of territorial sea measured from the baselines (usually coastline) of each island. Consequently, the Indonesian archipelago was divided into several groups of territories separated by one another.
This was disadvantageous because it “could not contain the archipelago within a single jurisdictional blanket” (Djalal, 1990).
To deal with this situation, prime minister Djoeanda Kartawidjaja declared new Indonesian maritime claims through the Djoeanda Declaration on Dec. 13, 1957. It asserts that the entire archipelago was enclosed by a belt of baselines (islands and waters between islands) that must be regarded as one integral unit and integral parts of Indonesia. By doing so, Indonesia was claiming the status of an “archipelagic state”.
Indonesia’s unilateral claim of an “archipelagic state” status, however, was not easily accepted by the international community. Indonesia did not give up and diligently sought for support from other countries.
The fight was finally fruitful as the concept of an “archipelagic state” was adopted in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. The Convention is the latest and is considered as the most comprehensive ocean-related international convention, which often referred to as the “constitution of the ocean”.
Indonesia, through its prominent diplomats, such as Mochtar Kusumaatmadja and Hasjim Djalal, has proven its invaluable contribution to the establishment of the convention.
Indonesia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1985 through Law No. 17/1985. In addition to other ocean affairs, the convention also governs maritime zones of jurisdictions. A coastal state is entitled to, i.e. 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, a contiguous zone out to 24 nautical miles, an exclusive economic zone out to 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf out to 350 nautical miles or more.
Pursuant to the convention, Indonesia is entitled to much larger maritime areas compared to what it possessed at the time of independence. It is fair to say that this is the most peaceful possession of territory and jurisdiction with no single bullet being shot.
The convention also deals with maritime delimitation/division between States on the occurrence of overlapping entitlement. In this regards, Indonesia considers itself to have at least 10 neighbors with which maritime boundaries need to be settled.
Indonesia is reasonably productive in establishing maritime boundary agreements. It has agreed upon various maritime boundaries with seven neighbors such as Malaysia (1969, 1970), Thailand (1971, 1975), Australia (1971, 1972, 1997), Singapore (1973, 2009), Papua New Guinea (1973, 1980), India (1974, 1977) and Vietnam (2003).
Unilaterally, Indonesia has also made a submission to the United Nations on the outer limits of its continental shelf (seabed) beyond 200 nautical miles from baselines for the area to the southwest of Aceh. Through this submission Indonesia has confirmed an “additional” seabed area the size of which equals Madura Island (around 4,000 square kilometers).
While Indonesia has been quite productive in defining its boundaries, various segments are left to settle. As per December 2011, Indonesia has yet to settle more than 20 maritime boundary segments in around 15 locations. Pending maritime boundaries have been evident to cause maritime disputes and incidents.
The case of the Ambalat Block (2005, 2009), Tanjung Berakit incident (2010) and the Malacca Strait incident (2011) are three incidents involving Indonesia and Malaysia due to pending maritime boundaries between the two. In the Timor Sea, where maritime boundaries have been settled between Indonesia and Australia, maritime incidents are not absent either.
Lack of information causing border crossing and illegal fishing activities seem to be the reason of Indonesian fisherman seizure in the area.
After defining maritime limits and boundaries, boundary administration (management) becomes critical. Well-established “fences” at sea are not the end of the story. The fences need to be guarded to prevent border crossings and other illegal activities, especially those related to resource utilization. For these purposes the Indonesian Navy, water police, ministry of marine affairs and fisheries patrolling force, should be equipped with sophisticated operational facilities.
However, the current situation is still far from ideal. It is widely known that Indonesia has yet to add a number of vessels to guard its large maritime area.
While it is true that illegal fishing offenders should be prosecuted for deterrence purposes, it is Indonesia’s responsibility to guard its maritime area from such activities. Analogically, the law may prohibit anyone from stealing anything from somebody’s premises but it is the owner’s responsibility to lock its door for security reason.
Another important agenda is to enhance the expertise concerning ocean affairs and the law of the sea in general. This expertise should cover technical and non-technical issues. For example, Indonesia requires more geoscientists (geodesists, geophysicists, geographers, geologists) with interest in the law of the sea.
Ocean affair is, eventually, not only about legal aspect but also technical consideration. Indonesia’s journey toward a naval power is not only about modernizing main weaponry system (Alutsista) but also preparing future generation with adequate expertise.
What Indonesia has managed to secure in terms of territory and jurisdiction cannot be ignored and abandoned. Large maritime area does promise a lot of opportunities but it also comes with great responsibility. On the 54th celebration of Djoeanda Declaration, it is worth recalling an old song.
Nenek moyangku orang pelaut // Our ancestors were sailors;
Gemar mengarung luas samudera // They sailed across the oceans;
Menerjang ombak tiada takut // Challenged waves fearlessly;
Menempuh badai sudah biasa […] // Were used to weathering storms […].
Notice: This article was quoted in an online newspaper of The Jakarta Post, on December 14, 2011. It can be reached at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: December 15, 2011].
I Made Andi Arsana, Ph.D. is a Lecturer at the Department of Geodetic Engineering UGM (Gadjah Mada University) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.