The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian government has been called upon to renew efforts to improve the welfare of people living in its border areas.
During the Cold War, the government was forced to assist people in border areas by helping them establish cooperation and socio-economic transactions with those on the opposite sides of borders.
'But improving the socio-economic conditions of communities in border areas should not only be done through domestic economic empowerment,' said Endi Haryono, a lecturer at Gadjah Mada University (UGM).
Speaking at a discussion organized by the political and administration department of UGM on Saturday, Endi said it was time for the government to change its paradigm from a security approach to a prosperity approach.
This, he said, could take shape by providing the opportunity for border communities to conduct transactions with citizens on the other side of borders.
'In a global era, the policy should be changed. The country's borders should not separate and imprison residents,' he said.
'It should be reorganized as a region that connects and liberates and as a place to develop democracy.'
The discussion was held to review a book written by Johanes Sanak titled Human Security dan Politik Perbatasan (Human Security and Border Politics).
Endi said Indonesia had vast land and sea territory bordering 10 nations. It has three land borders: West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan, which border Malaysia; Papua, which borders Papua New Guinea; and East Nusa Tenggara, which borders Timor Leste.
Indonesia's border also includes 92 outer islands, 12 of which are still the subjects of disputes with neighboring countries: Rondo, Sekatung, Berhala, Nipa, Marore, Mianggas, Marampit, Fani, Fanildo, Brass, Batek and Dana.
'All regencies in border areas are still disadvantaged, despite their rich natural resources,' said Endi.
According to Endi, poverty in border areas is attributed to the implementation of a security approach during the New Order regime. Such a model was implemented by every nation during the Cold War.
During the New Order, border areas were regarded as areas that were only secured militarily. Consequently, infrastructure development and socio-economic issues in border areas had been neglected.
'When compared with other developing countries, Indonesia is considered late in opening and 'softening' the borders,' said Endi.
However, after the New Order collapsed, the government issued Law No. 43/2008 on the territory of the Republic of Indonesia and formed the National Agency on Border Management (BNPP) in 2010, which is led by the home minister. It is aimed at integrating security and prosperity approaches to border managing border areas.
'However, the condition of the border areas is still yet to see significant progress, as they remain poor and disadvantaged, such as those bordering Malaysia,' said Endi.
Erwin Endaryanta, from UGM's social and political sciences faculty, said border areas also remained marginalized.
'Don't consider border areas as regions at the rear, but they must be positioned at the forefront. The government's logic must be dismantled,' said Erwin who conducted a study in Entikong, West Kalimantan, which borders the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
He said residents living in border areas should be free to interact with communities across the border.
'For example, allow residents in Entikong to get eye treatment in Malaysia, as it would be too expensive to get it in Indonesia,' he said.
'Then the Malaysian hospital could later charge the expenses to the regency administration.'
He added the need for research in border areas to find common interests that could push for prosperity.
The BNPP has issued its Grand Design in Managing Border Areas and Indonesian Border Areas from 2011 to 2025.
The goal is to create a master plan and action plan for the management of border areas in stages, in a systematic, measured and comprehensive manner.
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