February 22, 2012

Indonesia Gets Apology From Malaysian Navy - Latest Ambalat Oil Confrontation

Malaysia in pink colour.

The Ambalat under-sea oil block (lower map) is the small area of water in the Celebes Sea just off Tawau. Ambalat is subject to a territorial dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia as it lies off the coast on the border of Indonesia's province of East Kalimantan and southeast of the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Malaysia refers to part of the Ambalat Block as Block ND 6 while part of the East Ambalat Block is referred to as Block ND 7. These under-sea blocks are rich in crude oil. Also shown is the Strait of Malacca, once reported by the Malaysian Navy as being too shallow for its Scorpene submarines!
Indonesia's ANTARA News, June 11, 2009, reports:
"Kuala Lumpur (ANTARA News) - Chief of the Malaysian Navy Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar on Wednesday offered an apology to the Indonesian people over the Ambalat issue."We offer an apology if we are considered violating Indonesian territory. We also offer an apology if any of Malaysian naval officers has been involved in a provocative act.

We will find them and take stern measures against them," Abdul Aziz said at a meeting with a five-member Indonesian parliamentary delegation at his office here.

He assured the Indonesian legislators of the Malaysian Navy`s pledge not to deploy a Scorpene submarine at the Ambalat block in a show of force."We are deploying a Scorpene submarine in the deep sea off [Kota] Kinabalu city. We cannot deploy it in the Malacca Strait which has shallow waters. We will never send Scorpene to the Sulawesi Strait [Makassar Strait?] because it will destroy coral reefs there," he said.

"To be honest, we don`t want to destroy the Indonesian people`s perception of Malaysia. We are neighboring nations who belong to the same stock," he said."I assure you that the happening will not recur. I also have made a request to hold talks with the Indonesian naval chief of staff about the issue," he said.

The Indonesian parliamentary delegation is made up of Yusron Ihza Mahendra, Shidqi Wahab, Djoko Susilo, Andreas Pareara, and Happy Bone Zulkarnaen, all of them members of the House Commission for defense, information and foreign affairs.Yusron who led the delegation said he was satisfied with the results of his meeting with the Malaysian naval chief.

Relations between the two neighboring states have become tense following reports Malaysian warships had encroached on the Indonesian territory in the Ambalat waters. Late last month, Indonesia`s KRI Untung Surapati-872 warship managed to drive away a Malaysian warship, the KD Yu-3500, which had tried to trespass Indonesian waters in the Ambalat Block. A day earlier, the Indonesian Navy`s KRI Hasanudin-366 also drove away KD Baung-3509, a helicopter of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and a Malaysian Beachraft which tried to enter the Ambalat Block.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said here on Friday Indonesia had so far sent 36 protest notes to Malaysia about border violation committed by Malaysian patrol boats in Ambalat waters."The 36th protest note was sent to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (June 4)," he said. The latest protest note was conveyed after the foreign ministry had obtained details on the realities on the ground from the Indonesian Navy, he said.

Malaysia claims the area based on a 1979 maritime map while Indonesia bases its claim on provisions in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas."
It is highly significant that the apology is coming from a military man rather than some lesser PR spokesman in the Malaysian Government. This may cause some bitterness amongst the Malaysian military towards their own government.
Malaysia has two French built Scorpene submarines, the KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and the KD Tun Abdul Razak.