Laughing matters: Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Bin Hamidi (left) jokes with legislator Effendy Choiri in Jakarta on Monday night. Effendy, from the National Awakening Party (PKB), as well as the House Commission I on foreign affairs, launched a book titled Islam – Nasionalisme, UMNO – PKB, Studi Komparasi dan Diplomasi (Islam – Nationalism, UMNO – PKB, a Comparative Study and Diplomacy). JP/J.ADIGUNA
Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi guarantees there will be no war between his country and Indonesia despite rising tensions between the two countries following recent disputes over the oil-rich Ambalat maritime boundary area.
Ahmad said during a discussion Monday evening that the war would only happen if defense ministers of the two neighbors declared it.
"But I couldn't possibly declare such a war; the Indonesian defense minister is my brother. And I have no heart to attack my brothers and sisters in Wates," Hamidi said, referring to a small town in Yogyakarta.
The Malaysian minister is apparently of Javanese descent with some of his family members still living in Wates.
Hamidi said Indonesia and Malaysia should focus on diplomatic measures instead of physical actions to settle their problems
"The people of the two countries should engage more in informal forums to break the ice between them."
Meanwhile, Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, who also appeared at Monday evening's discussion, said many small problems involving the two countries had become bigger because of media publications.
He reminded media in the two countries not to exaggerate the small problems.
On the Ambalat issue, Juwono said Indonesia and Malaysia had agreed three weeks ago to reduce the presence of their fleets around the maritime boundary area to reduce the tension between them.
As for abuses against Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, which often sparked Indonesians' anger, Juwono said the problem should have been settled at home.
He said the sending of the migrant workers to Malaysia was very much related to domestic poverty issues.
Juwono and Hamidi appeared as speakers in the launch of a book title Islam and Nationalism: UMNO and PKB Comparative study and Diplomacy by Indonesian lawmaker Effendi Choiri from the National Awakening Party (PKB).
The book is the report of Effendi's dissertation while pursuing his doctorate degree at Malaysia's Universiti Malaya.
Among those attending the book launch were the chairman of Indonesia's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin, the People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Hidayat Nurwahid, and several Indonesian lawmakers. Several UMNO members and Hamidi's staff were among those representing Malaysia.
Din and Hidayat said Islam, which is the religion of most of the two countries' citizens, should be able to serve as uniting factor and ease tension between them.