Sunday, 28 June 2009

Riau warns central govt of looming border fight

Rizal Harahap , THE JAKARTA POST , PEKANBARU | Sat, 06/27/2009

The government must immediately resolve a border dispute between Riau and North Sumatra provinces, or imminent conflict will be unavoidable, local councilors warn.

Senior Riau councilor Yudha Bakti said Friday the border dispute had resulted in "dualism" in institutions in one region because of the unclear demarcation in Bagan Sinembah and Pujud districts, both in Rokan Hilir regency, Riau, and in Torgamba district, Labuhan Batu regency, North Sumatra.

"There are two police stations with different jurisdictions in the same regency of Rokan Hilir - one is the Riau Police and the other the North Sumatra Police," said Yudha, deputy chairman of the provincial legislature's Commission A on legal and administrative affairs.

"Police officers at one station ignore those at the other station, although they're in the same corps. This will lead to confusion."

Yudha added the border dispute had already taken its toll, with residents in two districts in Rokan Hilir embroiled in a conflict with plantation firms that had obtained permits from North Sumatra.

Last week, dozens of residents set ablaze two excavators owned by the firm, which they deemed had taken over their land in Rokan Hilir.

"Conflicts arise in line with soaring land prices as oil palm plantations expand," Yudha said.

"Land grabs were not an issue before because the land claimed was always so small.

But residents can no longer be silent, because the land taken from them is now considerably bigger. Security in border areas is under threat if no immediate measures are taken."

Yudha said the Riau administration had re-measured its land, particularly to confirm borders, in a move rejected by the North Sumatra administration.

"This problem could be easily settled if the Home Ministry stepped in," he said.

"The ministry has all the coordinates of the border.

All the minister has to do is summon the governors of the two provinces and tell them the lay of the land."

Riau administrative affairs head Alimuddin said the border dispute had previously been settled in 2007.

But it resurfaced when the North Sumatra administration "breached a border agreement" by planting stakes 15 kilometers into Rokan Hilir regency to mark its territory, he said.

He added he had written to the government to ask for help.

During his visit Friday to Pekanbaru, Home Minister Mardiyanto promised to help resolve the border dispute immediately.

"Although the final decision is with the government, the local administrations must be proactive and coordinate to handle this dispute properly," he said.

The ministry's head of information, Saut Situmorang, said the ministry would take action only after North Sumatra had sent a letter similar to that written by the Riau administration to request help.