JAKARTA, Jan 15 — The Ambassador of Malaysia to Indonesia, Datuk Syed Md Hasrin Tengku Hussin, intends to enhance ongoing collaboration with Indonesia in various sectors across numerous areas, especially in tourism, education, trade, investment, and connectivity.
He underlined the commitment to plan high-level visits while carefully taking into account the schedules of counterparts, especially after the changes in several ministerial positions in Malaysia recently.
Several planned visits to Kalimantan Timur, Sulawesi Selatan, Makasar, and Surabaya are in the works, following visits to Jawa Barat, Medan, Pontianak, and Pekanbaru last year.
Syed Md Hasrin, who started his duties in June last year, is also working to activate approved flight routes that were affected by Covid-19 apart from exploring new routes.
“Connectivity, including land and air, has increased from about 70 per cent when I arrived to almost 90 per cent now,” he said.
Syed Md Hasrin, explained that the introduction of new flight routes such as Kuching-Jakarta-Kuching and Kuala Lumpur-Kertajati West Java)-Kuala Lumpur last year contributed to this increase.
Bilateral relations also strengthened in 2023 as evident in the number of high-level leader visits, the annual meetings of the Joint Boundary Committee, and the growth of the trade sector.
In the tourism sector, over two million Indonesian tourists visited Malaysia in 2023, surpassing the recorded 1.4 million in 2022 and 1.2 million Malaysian tourists to Indonesia in 2021.
“We have also welcomed visits from students and university representatives seeking information about Malaysia,” said Syed Md Hasrin.
While Indonesia prepares for the presidential and legislative elections on February 14, he hopes for smooth elections to ensure a seamless leadership transition for continued cooperation.
“The strengthening of bilateral relations, along with a more robust economic cooperation, will continue to expand to enhance the overall relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia,” he stated.
Global cooperation and border negotiations
Syed Hasrin highlighted positive cooperation between the two countries through the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries to address challenges posed by the European Union Timber Regulation and its negative effects on the industry.
“This bilateral initiative is a convincing example of global cooperation between Malaysia and Indonesia and will be a foundation for us to explore more collaboration opportunities for the benefit of both countries,” he said.
Regarding Indonesia’s goal to resolve three border segment issues with Malaysia this year, Syed Md Hasrin said, “It is a commitment at the highest level of both leaders,” as discussed in the meeting in Putrajaya last year.
The three land border segments involve the Kalimantan-Sabah region – Pulau Sebatik, Sinapad-Sesai, and West Pillar-AA 2.
He mentioned that many overlapping claims in border areas, both land and maritime, including Ambalat or the Sulawesi Sea, are yet to be resolved. However, these matters do not hinder the strengthening of bilateral cooperation.
Maritime border resolution is more complex since, technically, Malaysia is a coastal nation, and Indonesia is an archipelagic nation.
Cultural and language promotion
Syed Hasrin emphasised the preservation of the traditional Barongan dance in Johor and Selangor, Malaysia, known as Reog in East Java, as an effort to promote culture.
“Culture does not follow borders; it transcends borders, like the Javanese community in Malaysia. It is important to promote the arts together.”
“If we observe, the Chinese community also promotes the Lion Dance in Malaysia, and no one questions it because it is part of their civilisation,” he explained.
In April 2022, the embassy issued a statement that Malaysia had no intention of registering the Reog art as a Unesco cultural heritage.
He stated that while Bahasa Indonesia is one of the official languages of Unesco conferences, Malaysians need to understand that the language is different despite many similarities.
“But now, Bahasa Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia. According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu is a regional language in Indonesia.”
“Malaysians need to accept this, just as Indonesians need to understand that the Javanese community in Malaysia also wants to preserve ‘Barongan’,” he explained.
Syed Hasrin previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Malaysia in Jakarta from 2010 to 2014. — Bernama