Indonesia shuts Malaysian firm's station

It deems landing station, part of sub-marine cable project, a threat that violates sea law

JAKARTA • Indonesia has shut down what it believes is an illegal landing station built by a Malaysian company as part of a sub-marine cable project linking Peninsular Malaysia to Sarawak.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry has confirmed that a landing station for a large underwater optic cable with 400GB bandwidth owned by Sacofa, a Malaysia-based communications company, in Anambas, Riau Islands, violates international maritime law.

Indonesia and Malaysia have had an agreement for sub-marine cable placement since 1982, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told The Jakarta Post.

"According to the agreement in 1982 and also the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), only the right to put a cable under the sea for the sake of communication between East and West Malaysia is given. It does not include the establishment of a landing station for the cable on Indonesian land," he said.

The ministry, he added, had demanded that the facility remain completely underwater, as stipulated in the 1982 agreement.

Sacofa managing director Zaid Zaini said in a written statement that its cable had only "connection points" on the islands of Anambas and Natuna, "which should then exempt it from requiring a landing rights permit".

The company was earlier quoted by The Borneo Post as saying that it "abided by all the rules of Unclos through an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Indonesian government for the laying down of the sub-marine optic cable passing through its island".

An unnamed company official told Malaysian media: "Why they (the Indonesia military) decided to take action now is the big question."

The landing station was completed in 2004, with permission from the Indonesian Communications and Information Ministry.

Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo believes that the station and fibre-optic cables are a threat to national security.

"The fibre-optic cables and servers could directly connect to satellites. If more devices are added to the system, the technology could sense all vibrations from the surface of the sea or submarines," General Gatot said.

The waters surrounding the Riau Islands have been the scene of stand-offs between Indonesian and Chinese security forces, as Chinese fishermen sail farther south, backed by their coast guard.

In response, President Joko Widodo has reinforced Indonesia's base on Natuna and seized vessels fishing illegally.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline Indonesia shuts Malaysian firm's station. Subscribe