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Jakarta Post

Navy denies involvement in shooting of Taiwanese vessels

  • Tama Salim and Nani Afrida

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 23, 2016   /  09:40 am

The Indonesian Navy has denied any involvement in a recent skirmish with two Taiwanese fishing boats that were fired upon while they were en route to Singapore.

Navy chief of staff Adm. Ade Supandi denied the accusation that an Indonesian warship shot at any Taiwanese vessels sailing through the Malacca Strait on Monday.

'€œI don'€™t have any report on the matter, but that is not our ship,'€ Ade told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Ade pointed out that Indonesian warships have three-digit hull numbers, unlike the four-digit number claimed to have been seen by the crew of the Taiwanese boats.

He added the Navy did not own any ships with hull numbers that start with the digit 2, indicating that the vessel in question may have belonged to the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. The ministry'€™s patrol boats, however, also have three-digit hull numbers.

On Monday, a Taiwanese media broadcast reported that two fishing boats that were on a course to the Malacca Strait were shot at by an Indonesian Navy vessel.

Fishing vessels Sheng Te Tsai and Lien I Hsing No. 116 are both registered in Liuqiu township, Pingtung county, in Taiwan. Two Taiwanese skippers and 18 Indonesian seamen were reported to have been on board the two vessels.

The ships'€™ owner, Lee, said that he received a satellite call from on of the ships'€™ captains, Lin Nan, at about 5 a.m. local time, informing him that an Indonesian warship had opened fire at one of the boats.

Lin said the crew of neither vessel had been injured, but the Seng Te Tsai had more than 10 bullet holes in it. Lin claimed the shots were aimed at the bridges of both ships, which was different from ordinary warning shots that usually target the ship'€™s stern or its surroundings.

The Taiwanese ship crews believed, based on the '€œ2804'€ hull number, that the vessel doing the shooting was an Indonesian warship, suggesting that it can only be seen on official ships from Southeast Asian countries.

The two ships, which were heading to Singapore to unload their catches and stock up on supplies, reported their location at 6 degrees, 15 minutes north and 97 degrees, 40 minutes east when the shooting took place, Reuters reported.

The Taiwanese Economic and Trade Office (TETO) in Indonesia issued a statement asking the government to clarify the incident, requesting an audience with officials in charge from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

'€œWe wish the Indonesian government to explain this accident since shooting at fishing boats is against UNCLOS [the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea],'€ it reads.

'€œThe Taiwan government and TETO are concerned about the safety of the personnel on board and the legality of firing shots.'€

According to the statement, the two fishing boats were shot at by an Indonesian patrol boat, the Hiu 2804.

Ismael Mae, the director of TETO'€™s press information division, said that the Taiwanese government was still trying to contact the relevant authorities to express concern about Indonesia'€™s actions.

Indonesia has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan on account of the One-China Policy, but continues to maintain trade relations through TETO.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said that the government was still in the midst of verifying the exact coordinates of the incident, as well as the chronology of the shooting.

Arrmanatha said the ministry was also awaiting confirmation from the fisheries ministry, whose officials also did not respond to the Post'€™s calls for inquiries.

The incident in the Malacca Strait comes fresh off the back of another maritime confrontation near Indonesia'€™s Natuna Islands over the weekend, where a Chinese coast guard vessel intercepted Indonesian patrol ships that were impounding a Chinese fishing boat captured for poaching.

The Chinese government took issue with Jakarta'€™s act of detaining eight Chinese crew members on board, saying that the fishing vessel was operating in '€œtraditional Chinese fishing grounds'€.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti insisted that the seamen would be processed in accordance with Indonesian law.

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