Batam marine HQ opens despite opposition
The Jakarta Post
After being in limbo for some time reportedly due to opposition by Singapore, the Marine Corps' 10th Infantry Battalion headquarters on Setokok Island, Batam, Riau Islands, is now operational.
'President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurated [the battalion headquarters] during his visit to the Military Academy in Magelang [Central Java] on Oct. 17. The inauguration was not conducted at the actual headquarters,' The battalion commander Lt. Col. Kresno Pratowo told The Jakarta Post.
Kresno added that the Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Marsetio would officially open the battalion headquarters on Setokok Island on Nov. 10 as part of the commemoration of National Heroes Day.
As many as 700 marines, several amphibious tanks, rocket launchers and other heavy equipment arrived at Batu Ampar Port, Batam on Tuesday morning from Jakarta aboard the Navy's KRI Surabaya
The marines and their equipment then paraded to their new headquarters on Setokok Island, some 20 kilometers from the port. Locals watched the parade, which led to traffic congestion in Batam.
As reported earlier, the battalion is a composite, comprising Navy special forces whose main duty is to secure the Malacca Strait from piracy and other maritime-security threats.
The location of the battalion headquarters directly faces Singapore, the government of which recently expressed disapproval of the name of an Indonesian Navy corvette.
The newly named KRI Usman-Harun 359 ship was named after Second Sgt. Usman bin Haji Muhammad Ali and Second Cpl. Harun bin Said. The two marines, who had been named national heroes by the Indonesian government, were executed by Singapore in 1968 for a bombing in the city-state that left three people dead and injured 33 others.
Yudhoyono was originally scheduled to inaugurate the battalion headquarters during the opening of the Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK) 2014 in March this year.
He then planned to inaugurate the headquarters on June 8, when he opened the 25th MTQ Koran recital competition in Batam but, again, it was postponed.
Then foreign affairs minister Marty Natalegawa denied that the postponed launch of the marine headquarters was due to opposition from Singapore.
'There was no objection or discussion [about the marine battalion headquarters] during the meeting,' Marty said after a meeting between Yudhoyono and Singaporean President Tony Tan in Batam on June 5.
The Navy began building the battalion headquarters last year in anticipation of potential border conflicts in the future.
The battalion headquarters occupies 37 hectares of land on Setokok Island, having facilities such as a helipad, a shooting range and a main building. The island is located southeast of Batam and is connected by a 365-meter bridge.
The establishment of the battalion is also part of the Navy's strategic plan to develop Eastern, Western and Central fleets by 2024. It will also set up another marine battalion in nearby Natuna Island.
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