Geopolitik Energi

April 12, 2007


Beyond the oil factor

Although securing access to seabed resources and, to a lesser extent, the strategic dimensions of controlling important sea-lanes are important drivers in the dispute, they do not tell the whole story. The domestic dimensions to the dispute, particularly for Indonesia, cannot be ignored. Ambalat represents the first territorial challenge that the new Indonesian President has faced, and as such has been regarded as a test of his statesmanship and resolve on the sensitive question of national sovereignty. President Yudhoyono has therefore been subject to considerable internal political pressure to take a hard-line position against Malaysia.19 His ordering of the rapid Indonesian military build-up in the region, coupled with statements declaring the non-negotiable nature of Indonesian sovereignty whilst simultaneously calling for a negotiated peaceful resolution to the dispute, reflects the pressures faced by the Indonesian president.

To some extent, the posturing of both sides also serves domestic political ends. This is especially the case in Indonesia, where the media has been swift to latch on to the dispute as a vehicle to promote patriotic fervor, which has served government interests by distracting public attention from the controversial and unpopular fuel price hikes, averaging 29 percent, implemented from March 1, 2005. In a sense, therefore, Ambalat has proved a useful pressure valve for the government from domestic concerns. The furor over Ambalat is reminiscent of President Sukarno’s Konfrontasi campaign of 1963-1965 against the newly created Federation of Malaysia. The issue resulted in popular anti-Malaysian demonstrations around Indonesia, where Malaysian flags were burnt and volunteers trained to ‘protect national sovereignty’ and ‘crush Malaysia’.20

The upsurge in anti-Malaysian sentiment in Indonesia, promoted by inflammatory media coverage, is surprising in the context of the two countries’ friendly bilateral ties. The Ambalat issue has arisen, however, at a time when bilateral relations have been strained as a result of Malaysia’s crack-down against illegal migrants as of March 1, 2005. Many of the estimated one million illegal workers in Malaysia are Indonesian. Considerable ill-feeling has been generated by Kuala Lumpur’s actions, particularly those viewed in Indonesia as Malaysia’s heavy-handed tactics including the imprisonment and whipping of illegal workers prior to deportation. Such actions have prompted Indonesian perceptions, fed by lurid media coverage, of their country and compatriots being humiliated and dishonoured at the hands of ‘Malaysian arrogance’.21 In contrast, the Malaysian media has proved largely quiescent on the issue, and Kuala Lumpur has urged the Indonesian media to tone down their coverage, as Malaysia had no desire to debate the issue via the media.22

All in all, the maritime boundary dispute reflects not only energy security or resource issues, but also the health of the overall bilateral political relationship between the parties. Therefore Ancel’s dictum regarding land boundaries seems just as apt in relation to maritime boundary disputes:

Il n’y a pas de problèmes de frontières. Il n’est que des problèmes de Nations. [There are no boundary problems. There are only problems of nations.]23


  1. Bung,

    Bagus euy blognya…
    Kebetulan saya juga tertarik dengan isu-isu hubungan internasional dan internasional politik.
    Coba dong, ulas teori politik internasional punya Kenneth Waltz

    Comment by sholi — August 31, 2007 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  2. bagus…tpi bahasa inggrisnya itu loh,, pegel bacanya!!

    Comment by indah — April 16, 2008 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  3. fuck bgt malaysia

    Comment by wahyi — March 19, 2009 @ 8:05 am | Reply

  4. Outstanding article!! Will come back soon.

    Comment by DescuemDerb — May 20, 2009 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  5. Hancurkan malaysia, fuck jöngos britis.

    Comment by Merah putih — June 4, 2009 @ 5:18 am | Reply

  6. Sdh taon 2009, Malay’sin’ masih aj nyolek2 Ambalat,Ooi..INA tegaz dong… Gayang Malaysia…:-(

    Comment by Nieki — June 4, 2009 @ 10:26 am | Reply

  7. malaysialan anjiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinggnnngggg

    Comment by cata — June 13, 2009 @ 7:58 am | Reply

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