Indonesia’s new coastguard announced

Incumbent Indonesia President Joko Widodo (L) and his spouse Iriana Widodo (R) cast their ballot at a polling center during the presidential and legislative election in Jakarta on April 17, 2019. Credit: BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Even before the final count for the Indonesian President Joko Widowo’s second term is finalised, one election promise has been met.

Last week the Minister for Transport Budi Karya Sumadi announced that the government would set up a new coastguard in accordance with 2008 government legislation.

All existing multiple authorities policing the coast that are responsible for ship safety, including the existing Indonesian Sea and Coast Guard (KPLP) and the more recent the Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), would be rolled into one.

“In modern nations there is only a coastguard and one navy,” the minister said.

The Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA) has been lobbying for the new coastguard as a priority issue.

Last week’s announcement came after INSA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian armed forces commander in January 2019 asking for one body with full authority to co-ordinate and carry out ship inspections or detentions and enforce the law of the sea.

Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) too, highlighted how at least five government agencies with overlapping authority needed streamlining. At the same time the Commission has been running a high-level case of a IDR2 billion (USD 139,196) bribe paid to the former BAKAMLA deputy chief to win a IDR222 billion tender for a satellite project.

Siswanto Rusdi, director of the National Maritime Institute, told SAS while the bribery case was a big one, corruption in Indonesian waters was widespread.

Rusdi said that ship inspections by multiple authorities were often settled by paying patrol boat commanding officers.

“The other corruption cases involving the harbour masters office across the country are tackled by local police or the district attorney,” he said.

Rusdi also alleged that the transport ministry itself harboured corrupt officials.

“They handle certification, examination, etc for seafarers and this [often] required bribery to smooth the process,” he said.

Setting up the new coastguard, however, will not come overnight, Rusdi stressed.

“There is so much work to do to make it materialise, but we see no road map,” he said. “We need an omnibus law. We must look at the national legislation programme 2019–24. As long as the conflicting laws or authorities are not righted, there is no guarantee [the new coastguard] will work.”

Formation of the new coastguard will be given to the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform of the Republic of Indonesia, the government has announced.