Why we are where we are now?
Malaysian and Indonesian history is so intertwined and our future is so closely linked that we are either hang together or hang separately.
Weren’t we both part of the glorious kingdom of Sriwijaya in Sumatra and the Majapahit kingdom in Java? Wasn’t the founder of the Malacca Sultanate, Pramesyara, a runaway prince from Palembang? Wasn’t it Dipati Unus from Jepara that lead a sizable number of troops ready to sacrifice their lives to get rid of Portuguese from Malacca, not once but twice? Weren’t members of past royal families intermarried too many times to count?
Weren’t we quick to get over the tedious Konfrontasi era and start building the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) together? Didn’t Indonesian professors leave the comfort of their homes to teach in classrooms in Malaysia a couple of decades ago? Aren’t Indonesian students these days filling Malaysian Universities and Indonesian singers filling their airwaves? Isn’t the economic prosperity of Malaysia directly benefiting from Indonesian workers because of our proximity and cultural and linguistic links?
Not only are our languages from the same roots and only slightly differentiable, our aspirations are one as well. We are brothers and will always be brothers. However, we can choose to live with brotherly love or without it. Some say that family feuds are the worst kind, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Family members don’t hurt each other. Searching without warrants should be ceased and let’s return the entire jurisdiction over illegal immigrants to police and immigration officers. Indonesia should make utmost efforts to control forest fires whose smoke reaches Malaysia, and Malaysia should tighten its Kalimantan/Borneo border to prevent illegal logging in Indonesia. Let Indonesian workers in Malaysia have the right to organize themselves in labor unions. Despite all the good will of the Malaysian government, many companies are bound to be overeager in their quests for profits and unions are one of the best ways to provide workers with protection.
Let us revise our labor MoU and no longer allow companies to keep workers passports. Our long shared history and ancient royal links sometimes make it hard to distinguish the origin of culturally related products.
Let us sincerely ask the question that the Roman leader Cicero conveyed. Cui bono? Who will benefit from a degrading relationship between us? Certainly not Indonesians in Malaysia nor Malaysians in Indonesia. Not the stability and prosperity of Southeast Asian.
While some people easily feel offended and have short horizons, let’s hope that cooler heads and long-term views prevail.
Berly Martawardaya is PhD candidate at the University of Siena, Italy. Adhitya is a PhD candidate at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, and board member of the International Association of Indonesian Scientists.
October 1st, 2009 → 6:51 pm
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October 1st, 2009 → 7:59 pm
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