Saturday, April 7, 2012

Who Moved the Kalimantan Border?

It was a hectic week last week.

I had thought that I was close to securing a deal in Indonesia, only to be told that another project is about to secured back at home. Here I was somewhere else thinking that it was going to a gold mine that I was practically neglecting the home turf and letting it go on auto-pilot, and yet that is our bread and butter.

Aah well, that's life I guess.

Taken without permission from
Having my breakfast at a small warong kopi (WarKop) in central Jakarta with a simple coffee and 'telur setengah matang" someone tried to have  small chat with me by asking where I am from. Typically too I would try to stretch the truth a bit by saying that I am from Riau and hence my weird Malay (with a touch of Indonesian) accent.

But this time around, I was not interested in the merry go round way of small talk, and hence I told him that I am from KL.

He reciprocated by telling me that he is from Balikpapan. Balikpapan is a town I know very well - I told him, as I have been to Balikpapan many times, and at one time I even stayed there for two straight weeks doing training for Pertamina refinery staff.

We went on to talk about politics and he confided with me that if he has his way, Kalimantan would be an independent nation!

Large area of Kalimantan are undeveloped, and ignored by Java-centric government, and even though he was Javanese himself (in fact, he was in full Javanese-batik attire), he considers himself as having embraced Kalimantan as his home (since the 70s).

"You know, Pak, about the problem that Indonesia had with Malaysia over the Kalimantan border?" he asked me, looking straight into my eyes while sipping his coffee.

Now we are in touchy ground, and I was not prepared to have a debate with Indonesians in their home territory. Alone! This was not going to be a friendly conversation over teh Sosro anymore. I was getting worried about the 'buluh runcing."

My life flashed before my eyes in that spilt seconds in between his sentences.

"It was not Malaysia who moved the border!"

Oh really? I waited with bated breath; this was getting interesting.

"It was done by Indonesians living near the border themselves," he said, convinced that he was going to get my interest.

I  stared at him, looking bewildered and confused. Why should Indonesians moved the border in such a way that is detrimental to Indonesia? It does not make sense to me. If I were them, I would move it in such a way that more land would be annexed into Indonesia, and not the other way.

But then again, in the age of satellite imaging and GPS, it does not make sense to do it at all. One would be caught - red-handed.

"They did it so that they can become Malaysians!"

Only then it dawned upon me; I gave him a hearty laugh. It sound so funny to me then, if it wasn't a serious affair. From media reports when this issue surfaced, I had thought that they were ready to go to war over this.

Indonesians in Kalimantan, especially near the border are a neglected lot, one might certainly be better off being the citizens of another nation. I don't blame them for thinking that way; those near the Mexico-USA border, I am sure, are interested in learning from their Indonesian peers.

In one sense, even if one is not neglected, I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

(Then again, closer to home, it is a wonder that Kelantan has not declared independence years ago!)

I certainly have no idea if this was the truth. It sounds so plausible to be honest. Had he lied to me, then I would be lying here too, so take this with a pinch of salts. 

But coming from a chat at a Warong Kopi in the middle of Jakarta, and what's more from an Indonesian himself with no vested interest to please or impress me, why should I doubt him?

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