In 2005 I had an opportunity to help communities living in an outermost island of Indonesian archipelago to better understand their island and its assets, and how to make livelihoods while at the same time keeping the ecosystem well maintained. The island is called Maratua island. It is located in the East Kalimantan province, and becomes Indonesia’s direct border with Malaysia and the Philippines. From Samarinda, the capital of the province, we must fly to Berau town and then take a couple of hours motorboat ride to the island.
I can not recall the demography of the people living in the island, but almost all of them are getting their livelihoods as fishers. There are also a tourist resorts in the island but it doesn’t belong to the locals. Here tourists from other countries stay and have their holiday activities like snorkeling or diving.
Maratua is one of the many small islands owned by the Republic of Indonesia. Yet, these islands, especially the ones that are the outermost, rarely have even the basic facilities and security from outside intruders. People living in these islands are the front liners to keep the integrity and unity of this archipelagic nation, yet most of the time they have to struggle by themselves to fulfill their needs. People in Maratua island told me that sometimes pirate ships from the Philippines or other countries came to the island and took anything they like, from fish catches to household equipments. It is sad to see how the people struggle with their daily lives, yet you can see how the island has a very precious assets that can actually help the people prosper. The question, then, is always: Where the hell is the government?