Indonesia's capital relocation: Sabah needs to strengthen connectivity for regional development
17 March 2022
By Wartawan Nabalu News KOTA KINABALU: Sabah should take the opportunity to find ways to enhance connectivity with the new Indonesian capital said Kota Kinabalu MP, Chan Foong Hin. Chan who is also Sabah's Democratic Action Party (DAP) member said that the relocation of the Indonesian capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan as an event which “hardly ever comes by” and a “rare opportunity” for regional development. Chan was a panelist in a Wisdom Foundation forum recently to discuss "The Birth of Nusantara: Opportunities for Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). The forum was chaired by Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, President of the United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO), and speakers on the same stage included Rafail Walangitan, Indonesian Consul General in Kota Kinabalu, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, Sabah special envoy for BIMP-EAGA, and Indonesia Education and Culture ministry's vocational school directorate general Sandra Nahdar. During the forum, Chan mentioned that Indonesia's new capital has been named "Nusantara", and this indicates Indonesia's ambition to become a regional power in Southeast Asia. According to the authoritative "Kamus Dewan" published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, "Nusantara" should refer to the entire Malay Archipelago, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. “How can this term be monopolized by a single country in the region?” remarked Chan in the forum. Chan then noted that however, in the Indonesian context, "Nusantara" is a territory conquered in the 13th to 16th centuries by the Majapahit empire, a great power in Southeast Asian history. The location of the new capital is located in the center of the entire Republic of Indonesia. Therefore, naming the new capital "Nusantara" is in fact a self-proclamation that Indonesia is to be the center of power in the region. “Indonesia is on the rise and the moving of the Indonesian capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan is an epoch-making event. Is Malaysia, especially Sabah, which is the closest geographically, ready for it? This certainly is a rare opportunity,” said Chan. Chan said that on 15 March, had asked in the Malaysian Parliament whether the Ministry of Transport has any plans to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of railway service connecting Sarawak, Brunei, Sabah and Nusantara, Indonesia. The Ministry of Transportation's answer was a straightforward and disappointing "sorry, there is no such plan at this time." “It seems that Putrajaya has failed to see the urgency to seize the rare opportunities that come with the relocating of the capital of Indonesia,” said Chan. Chan then urged Putrajaya to strengthen the connectivity between Sabah and East Kalimantan to enable the people here to be able to seize the opportunities that become available. “Nusantara is not as close as everyone thinks. In fact, from the Kalabakan border town of Simangaris to Nusantara is close to 1,000 kilometers,” said Chan. Chan pointed out that it is important to strengthen not just land connectivity, but also sea and air connectivity to the new Indonesian capital. The ports on the east coast of Sabah, especially the POIC port in Lahad Datu, share the same Makassar Strait with other ports in East Kalimantan, which can be connected in a series to become an alternative waterway outside of the Strait of Malacca. “In terms of land connectivity, it is mainly the connection between Simangaris in Kalimantan and Serudong in Kalabakan. "Not only a Custom Immigration Quarantine and Security (CIQS) complex is needed, the border township can be developed into a free trade area to strengthen bilateral trade,” said Chan. As for air connectivity, Chan noted that flights between Sabah and East Kalimantan are lacking. “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were only small planes plying the route from Tawau to Tarakan and there were no air connection between major cities of East Kalimantan such as Balikpapan and Samarinda. More flights ought to be introduced,” said Chan.