TAWAU (Bernama) – The issue of Palau community or boat people crossing the Malaysia-Indonesia maritime borders has been solved, thanks to the close cooperation between the leaders of the two countries, according to Indonesian Consul in Tawau, Muhammad Soleh.
He said through the cooperation, which has long existed, all plans and discussions were able to be executed well in line with the objectives agreed by the two neighbouring countries.
“We are aware that there are many of these boat people going in and out of the two countries via maritime borders and most of them live along the coastal areas or on islands belonged to either one of the countries.
“It was reported recently that many of these boat people were arrested by the Indonesian authority and that the issue needs to be solved with the cooperation of the Malaysian leaders and a third party, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),” he told Bernama when met at his office.
He said some of the boat people arrested by the Indonesian authority were residing in coastal areas and islands in Malaysia.
“As an Indonesia’s representative here, I see no problem for the two countries to solve the issue of Palau community,” he said.
On Nov 26, Indonesia’s local media reported that 544 boat people were arrested and being detained at several camps in Bulalung, Kecamatan Pulau Derawan, Kampung Tanjung Batu, Kabupaten Berau, North Kalimantan.
It was also reported that the Palau community claimed that they had been going in and out between the two countries for many years.
The Palau community was detected 300 years ago and was believed to have originated from Riau Archipelago, Johor, especially in Lingga island before they migrated to southern Philippine and North Borneo over 100 years ago after the fall of the Melaka Sultanate.
These sea nomads were also known as Sea Gypsies as they were living on their boats, constantly moving from island to island.
Majority of the Palau community can be found on waters of Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Sandakan.