The Jakarta Post
East Kalimantan and Malaysia’s Sabah state promise to work more closely together to realize their potential and enrich the close ties between Indonesia and Malaysia, their leaders have said.
Sabah chief minister Shafie Apdal led a delegation of 56 people on a goodwill visit to the East Kalimantan capital of Balikpapan to meet with Governor Isran Noor and discuss ways to improve their neighborly relations.
“We are of one culture and origin. It is important for us to nurture not only the kinship between Indonesia and Malaysia, but also with East Kalimantan – which remains close and dear to Sabah,” Shafie said in his address at the Blue Sky Hotel in Balikpapan on Monday.
Prior to the 2012 decision to split East Kalimantan into two smaller administrative regions, the province bordered directly with the sultanate of Sabah along the northern edge of Nunukan regency and across the Schwaner mountain range.
Since then, Nunukan has become part of the nation’s youngest province, North Kalimantan, and the only direct border with Malaysia that East Kalimantan maintains is in Sarawak state in the regency of Mahakam Ulu.
“But we remain on one island – the island of Borneo, of Kalimantan – so it is only right that our bonds must be strengthened,” the Malaysian politician and former Cabinet minister said.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced in late August that he had chosen East Kalimantan to become the new seat of government to replace Jakarta, with the relocation intended to help ensure the equal spread of development across the country.
The new capital is also expected to boost ease of access to Malaysia and Brunei overland.
Governor Isran said there would be many potential avenues of cooperation with Malaysia once the capital relocation is realized.
“Besides [exploring] the potential of natural resources, we also have an abundance of cultural riches and tourism potential that will become the glue to our shared endeavors,” he said.
Cities like Tawau on the southern tip of Sabah have become essential in fulfilling the everyday needs and livelihoods of communities living along the border area. A range of supplies are sold at the border, from snacks to 14-kilogram gas canisters owned by Malaysia’s Petronas.
However, these very borders are known for being notoriously porous, proving a boon for the cross-border narcotics trade that allows sabu-sabu (crystal methamphetamine) and a range of alcoholic drinks from Sabah to be “exported” to Indonesia.
From the Indonesian side, people from North and East Kalimantan often visit Sabah for leisure. Fans of off road racing usually take part in the Borneo Safari, an international race held annually in Sabah, while outdoor enthusiasts can hike to the top of Kinabalu Mountain or weave through the white water rapids of the Padas River in Kota Belud, deep in the Sabah heartland.
For this reason, Isran said he would make a reciprocal visit to Sabah to “more seriously consider the opportunities for cooperation”.
“We may even send an equally large delegation to meet the Sabah chief minister,” he said in reference to the 56-strong group from Malaysia. (tjs)