Subject: JP: Bartering Still Thrives on the Maluku-Timor Leste Border

Bartering Still Thrives on the Maluku-Timor Leste Border

The Jakarta Post

Thursday, February 8, 2007

M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon

The traditional practice of bartering -- in which goods are exchanged rather than money -- may be a thing of the past in many places, but it's still used by residents of the islands on the border between Maluku and Timor Leste.

One of the islands where the practice endures today is Kambing Island (Atauro), Timor Leste. The island is the site of bartering between Southeast West Maluku and Timor Leste residents.

Pattimura military commander Brig. Gen. Sudarmaidy Soebandy said such cross-border deals, although illegal, still remain thanks to the close proximity of the area to Timor Leste's Kambing Island.

"When I was still assigned to Timor Leste, this practice was common and it still goes on today," he said.

He said such deals are common among Kisar residents from Southeast West Maluku regency and Tutuala residents from Timor Leste, since Kambing Island sits only 19 kilometers by sea away from the two areas.

In practice, the residents exchange goods while staying on board their small boats.

"Usually, residents from Wetar, Lirang Island and other islands carry fuel to be exchanged for rice," Sudarmaidy said.

He said bartering still exists today because of the lack of development of the country's outer islands.

Sudarmaidy said there are inadequate education, health and transportation facilities on the outer islands of Southeast West Maluku.

"There are schools there but since they opened them goats have been using them to shelter," he said.

He also said schools, such as on Wetar Island, have too few teachers, leading to Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel being assigned as replacements.

He said military posts were moved closer to villages to help TNI personnel fill vacant positions in village services.

The military command has sent troops to several posts to secure Maluku's outer islands. Three border monuments have been erected on the outermost of those islands -- Liran, Wetar and Kisar.

A company of army soldiers has been based in the area since 2003 and a military office has been set up on Wetar Island.

Based on data from Maluku province's Fisheries Office, Maluku has 812 islands, 21 of which are included in the list of the country's 92 outermost islands.

Out of Maluku's 21 outermost islands, eight are part of the Aru Islands chain and 13 are part of Southeast West Maluku. All of the islands are located on Indonesia's borders with Australia and Timor Leste.

In the Aru Islands chain, only one island is occupied while in Southeast West Maluku, only eight are occupied.

"The outermost islands of Southeast West Maluku regency are occupied since most of them are located near big islands like Larat, Tanimbar and Wetar," said the fisheries office chief Romelus Far-Far.

Southeast West Maluku regency administration secretary, Piet Norimarna, said the regency's residents had a strong cultural connection to Timor Leste, since they come from a similar tribe and use the same language, Tetun.

The cultural attachment, he said, continues despite Timor Leste becoming an independent nation.

"They continue the relationship by exchanging goods traditionally, without recognizing any borderline," Piet said.



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