The visit sent a strong signal to the world that the Natuna Islands, including the surrounding waters, are part of Indonesia’s territory—a clear message on efforts to protect the country’s sovereignty over the area, which lies on the southern edge of the South China Sea. “The Natuna Islands are part of Indonesia’s sovereignty and that is final,” said Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.
Upholding sovereignty over the vast archipelago is one of the main programmes of Jokowi’s cabinet. At the on-location cabinet meeting, the president discussed the improvement of the Natuna Islands’ fisheries industry and the development of the oil and gas sectors there. Thousands of fishing boats
from Java will be relocated to the Natunas, and there are currently some 12 oil and gas corporations operating in the area, which is in the internationally recognised exclusive economic zone of Indonesia.Since taking office in October 2014, President Jokowi has vowed to toughen Indonesia’s approach to the country’s sovereignty as part of his broader vision of turning Indonesia into a global maritime fulcrum between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. As regards illegal fishing, the administration can no longer tolerate a situation in which more than 5,000 ships from neighbouring countries, as well as China, have operated illegally in its waters every day, making a mockery of Indonesia’s sovereignty and resulting in annual losses of more than US$20 billion.
When President Jokowi came into power, hundreds illegal fishing vessels were sunk and illegal fishing fell by 80 per cent. Then, on March 7, authorities bombed the Nigeriaflagged Viking, the last major ship wanted internationally because of its years spent illegally fishing toothfish from southern waters. “This is to serve as a deterrent to others,” Minister of Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said.
This maritime strategy means Indonesia will pursue its national interests and thus enhance prosperity for the people. On April 5, President Jokowi visited Papua to inaugurate a number of infrastructure projects. It was his fourth visit in two years to the easternmost province that shares its border with Papua New Guinea, and he started his rounds with the inauguration of the Port of Wasior in Wondamba Bay, West Papua.
Read more about Indonesia's Policy under President Jokowi’s and his cabinet’s guidance at Indonesia Tatler August 2016 edition.
(Text by Olly G. Santosa)