Indonesia riled by advert promoting disputed island

Malaysian firm wooing tourists at German fair.

INDONESIA might lodge an official protest against Malaysia following the promotion of the disputed Sipadan island by a Malaysian company at a tourist fair in Germany.

The national Antara news agency yesterday quoted Indonesia’s Ambassador to Germany, Mr Izhar Ibrahim, as saying that Malaysia should honour the island’s “status quo” until the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided which country could claim it.

“We found that Malaysia still promotes Sipadan island,” he said, adding that the promotion was being carried out by a private company.

Both countries last year agreed to refer the dispute over the Sipadan and Ligitan islands, which lie off the coast of East Kalimantan, to the ICJ in The Hague.

The matter has been a thorn in bilateral ties since 1991, with the two sides basing their arguments on the territorial possessions of their former colonial rulers.

They agreed to third-party mediation when Indonesian President Suharto met Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur in October 1996.

Jakarta has been critical of “foreign companies” targeting the islands for tourist development.

A senior military officer involved in the talks told The Straits Times recently that “the question now is whether the conflicting parties will honour the status quo of the islands while they wait for a decision from the ICJ”.

Indeed, if the Indonesians lodge an official protest against the island’s promotion, it will not be for the first time.

Jakarta registered an official protest last year following a similar incident.

Antara said that the brochures promoting “Sipadan Paradise” at the tourist fair in Germany were very similar to those circulated last year.

The secretary of Malaysia’s National Security Council, Mr Jaafar Ismail, said recently that the NSC’s security division would monitor the islands and warned of “tough action” against companies that failed to follow a directive which ordered a halt to projects.

Mr Izhar did not comment on when the ICJ would convene to decide on the Indonesian and Malaysian claims.

Sources said the two countries would be going for a full hearing to be presided over by 17 judges.

Posted in Indonesia