Subject: AN: Ashmore Reef Belongs to Indonesia: Timor Gap Teamwork Chairman

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Ashmore Reef Belongs to Indonesia: Timor Gap Teamwork Chairman

KUPANG, E Nusa Tenggara, Jan 6 Asia Pulse/Antara - Chairman of Timor Gap Teamwork Ferdi Tanoni has insisted that Ashmore Reef, 60 miles south of Rote island, belongs to Indonesia.

Tanoni made the statement written by the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry's political and security official, Donnilo Anwar, at a press briefing at the weekend. He said the fact that the island was handed over to Australia by the United Kingdom in 1878 was something unreliable.

In the press briefing, Donnilo, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa, said Ashmore Reef had been dominated by the United Kingdom until it was handed over to Australia in 1878.

"The question is that which source of history did the foreign ministry official find the information about the status of Ashmore Reef," Tanoni asked.

Tanoni said the Timor Gap Teamwork and West Timor Care Foundation [YPTB] had reliable evidence indicating that Ashmore Reef, located 60 miles south of Indonesia's Rote island and 500 miles west of Darwin, belongs to Indonesia.

"Thus, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry has no reason to recklessly give the island up to Australia," Tanoni said.

According to Australian literature, the Australians discovered Ashmore Reef in 1826 and in 1855 Australia conducted research on the island where they later built a satellite city.

According to Tanoni, the United Kingdom handed over the Ashmore Reef administration to Australia in 1933.

Quoting Dr Damian Kingbury, a senior lecturer of International Relations Development at Deakin University in Melbourne, Tanoni said Australia started controlling the island in 1931.

Meanwhile, the traditional history of Rote islanders from generation to generation proved that Ashmore Reef, originally known as "Pulau Pasir" (Sand Island) is part of Indonesian territory, Tanoni said.

The traditional history suggested that Ashmore Reef, consisting of three small islands, was for the first time discovered by Rotemen of the Dato family in 1700.

"That is why following the discovery the three islands were named after Dato I, Dato II and Dato III. That is the historical fact that nobody can deny," Tanoni said.

He said Rote island's forerunners had long roamed the three tiny islands before the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 1974 between Indonesia and Australia to allow Indonesian fishermen to fish there.

"Based on these historical facts, Indonesia has the right to the island but because of our weak diplomacy in the international forum, we handed it over to Australia through the Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] agreement on March 1977," Tanoni lamented.

"We will continue to urge Jakarta to discuss again the status of Ashmore Reef with Canberra," he added.

Tanoni said the inconsiderate submission of Ashmore Reef to Australia without any diplomatic strive in the international forum would adversely affect the people of East Nusa Tenggara.

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