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23 januari 2008 06:16

Risen Up Maritime Nation!

Risen Up Maritime Nation!

By Bambang Budi Utomo

“every water around, between and with which connects islands or parts of the islands belonged to the land of Republic of Indonesia, without seeing the wide or total area, is natural part of the land of Republic of Indonesia and thus is part of national water under absolute sovereignty of Republic of Indonesia.”

This is Djoeanda Declaration 1957 which was pronounced to international world on 13th of December 1957 by the Prime Minister of Republic of Indonesia, Ir. H. Djoeanda. We must be grateful that if the declaration had not been enacted, then Indonesia‘s total area would have been only 3 miles from coastal line of an island as well as the water between the islands would have become international water.

The approval from international society about the concept of archipelagic state is defined in United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. Before the law, it is acknowledged that the total area of Republic of Indonesia reaches 1.9 million square miles and consists of 17.508 islands. In addition, with the concept of Wawasan Nusantara (archipelago principle), the sea between islands in Indonesian territory is called “internal sea”.

Maritime/Marine Culture

Republic of Indonesia is an archipelagic state with 770 tribes, 726 languages and 19 customary (adat) laws. The cultures are physically unseparated by the sea. From maritime side, however, the separation has never been done because all of the water in Nusantara serves as unifier integrating thousands of separated islands. In its development, the level of integration differs geographically as well as politically, economically, socially and culturally.

Indonesia is a multicultural nation in which there are two social groups, i.e. the group that lives by the sea coast and other group that lives in hinterland. Consciously or not, both of the social groups live in a dependency toward the sea. It is all back to the concept of life and awareness of living space which comes from the heterogeneity mentioned above. Then in its history, it is also mentioned about antagonistic desire of those groups to control each other. The group living on the land, as well as the other group, tries to control the shore by any efforts to get sea products.

Sea has been the place to seek for a living for both of those social groups. We could exploit biotic and abiotic resources from the sea. It also provides many promising and fascinating maritime activities. This is the stimulant for both of the groups toward the sea. At first, their purpose was to make a living and keep alive, but at the end they intend to develop their welfare. In other words, they build glory and wealth from maritime activities. This phenomenon at last forms maritime nation character, such as the inception of Kadatuan Sriwijaya, Malayu Kingdom, Majapahit Kingdom and Makassar Kingdom. 

Since the first millennium A.D, on the west side of Nusantara there has been trade/sea-voyage networks. At that time, Sriwijaya and Melayu were Nusantara seas authorities. Foreign ships entering Nusantara water could not get away from the sight of these kingdoms. Malaka strait which became the “entrance” of commerce ships from Middle East/India to China and in return was dominated by Sriwijaya/Melayu.

bangsa bahari
Raggie Hill/Borobudur Ship Expedition (8th century). This kind of ship sails
through the sea bringing Nusantara‘s crops to be sold to other kingdoms
(doc. Bambang Budi Utomo).

Moreover in the second millineum A.D, the trade/sea-voyage network was extended to the east. Majapahit as an agrarian-maritime kingdom succeeded in conquering areas almost as wide as Indonesia today. Several places in Nusantara are mentioned in the renowned book called “Nagarakertagama” as Majapahit‘s subordinate state. Whether the information is true or not, the places mentioned in Nagarakertagama were certainly visited by Majapahit ships.

Sea really is a unifier media because people from various nations could interact through diverse activities conducted at the sea. These people could also run their economic activities through intercontinental or interisland shipping “service”. Since the first year A.D, Nusantara seas have been enlivened by ships from around the world. Through this water transportation, trade commodities were brought from one place to another for trading.

Wawasan Nusantara is a political concept of Indonesia regarding Indonesia as a territory unity which comprises ground (land), water (sea) including sea-bottom and the ground beneath as well as the air above unseparatedly, unifies the nation as a whole and encompasses political, economical, social-cultural, defense and safety aspects. This is Indonesia point of view in seeing its mother land as its birth place which is has been forgotten lately by the children of nation. The history of this nation was actually started from the sea. Since the beginning, every activities of this nation‘s life, including the spread of its inhabitants, were conducted at the sea.

Sustainable Development

In celebrating 50 years of Djoeanda Declaration, on 4th of December 2007 a joint understanding and support between ministers on Indonesian Maritime Sustainable Development was signed. In the joint understanding initiated by Indonesian Maritime Council, three points of developmental acceleration of Indonesian maritime were mentioned. These points addressed society welfare. Although Indonesia has been asserted as archipelagic state, its development in maritime sector is in fact left behind. Three points of maritime development mentioned above includes economic development (shipping, fishery and marine tour), natural environment and human resources as well as science and technology. From these points, the main concern is not to forget cultural conservation development. Cultural conservation could be included in natural environment development.

bangsa bahari
Melayu tribe settlement in Sungsang, the mouth of Musi River.
The settlement was built above water close to Bangka strait.
The people work as fishermen and merchants (doc
. Bambang Budi Utomo).

When we learn from our experience in the New Order era, many governmental activities were failed, such as Ministry of Social Affairs‘ project in resettlement of Sea Tribe. The intention was ideal, however, the project did not apprehend human ecology of Sea Tribe life thus the houses made for them were only dwelled shortly. Later on they went back to the sea to “continue their wandering”. Land is a place for the dead! Will the failure be repeated only because disregarding/ understating cultural aspect? Other example is shark-hunting in Lembata, Flores. People of Lembata at certain times do shark-hunting. The sharks haunted are not to be caught. They are not allowed to hunt pregnant shark or baby sharks. The preys are given first to widows and the poor. The rest only then are given to Desa Lembata residents. This is the wisdom of Lembata residents in conserving sharks habitats. This kind of culture need to be conserved.

It has been fifty years after Indonesia has declared itself as archipelagic state and twenty five years after Indonesia has been protected legally by the international (UNCLOS 1982) as an archipelagic state. However, within the time frame we have lost Sipadan Island, Ligitan Island and East Timor, as well as Ambalat Island which is still in controversy with Malaysia. In fact there are 12 more islands at the “side” of Indonesia which are still in controversy with other neighboring countries, i.e. Bondo Island, Sekatung, Nipa, Berhala, Marore, Miangas, Marampit, Batek, Dana, Fani and Bras Island.

Such an ironic for an archipelagic state, which supposes to have strong sea defense, that it does not have strong navy force. Similarly, the sea transportation connecting islands could be stated inadequate. How is our responsibility toward Djoeanda Declaration 1957?

“Punna lampa mi biseyangku, la ku alleyangi mate na towalia”

Meaning :

“If the sail has been flapped, being drown is better off than to flee”


Bambang Budi Utomo, is Kerani Rendahan at NRCA.

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