Jakarta – Two residents of Malamber Island, West Sulawesi, have allegedly sold the island to an East Kalimantan regent for Rp 2 billion (US$140,800).
Malamber Island is a sparsely populated turtle conservation center and is part of the Balabalakang island cluster in Mamuju regency, West Sulawesi.
Balabalakang district head Juara said the East Kalimantan regent had given down payment of Rp 200 million to a person named Rajab, one of the two residents who reportedly sold the island.
"I just learned the information from the [Mamuju] regent. I was surprised because they had not notified district officials of the sale," Juara told kompas.com recently, adding that Mamuju Regent Habsi Wahid had reprimanded him for the oversight.
Mamuju Police criminal investigation unit head Adj. Comr. Syamsuriansyah said he had requested information from local officials and the National Land Agency (BPN) office in Mamuju to clarify the rights to and ownership of Malamber Island.
However, Syamsuriansyah said, local officials and the BPN had not been able to provide a statement on the first call. They had promised to visit the Mamuju Police headquarters at a later time to provide the information.
"If, later, we find a criminal element, we will decide whether the case meets the requirements to be upgraded to a higher level [of investigation]," he said.
The police have also requested information from the two residents who allegedly sold the island. They have said that the transaction was with North Penajam Paser Regent Abdul Gafur Masud.
"We have the down payment receipt of Rp 200 million, the nominal value of Rp 2 billion, and the transaction was carried out in Balikpapan," Syamsuriansyah said, adding that it remained unclear whether the transaction was for the whole island or part of it.
Regent Gafur dismissed the issue. He acknowledged that he had visited the island recently but said his visit was to monitor its condition in his capacity as the chairman of the Indonesian Archipelago and Coastal Government Association (Aspeksindo).
"I don't know much about the issue, but I was indeed recently in West Sulawesi. I used my own [boat] to go to the islands of Sabakatang, Salisingan, Kepongonan and then Malamber, where I went diving as well," he said.
The regent noted that East Kalimantan and West Sulawesi had had a history of territorial disputes. "Maybe the officials in West Sulawesi are worried because I am the regent of East Kalimantan," said Gafur.
Muhammad Ridwan Alimuddin, a maritime researcher at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi, said that Malamber Island had been home to 12 families, but some had moved out because of a dispute, leaving only four families.
Ridwan, who had recently researched the island cluster, said that Malamber was a promising investment site and had the potential to be developed into a tourist area because the island was close to the country's future capital.
"But the island has been designated a turtle conservation center by the governor," he said.
National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono was not available to comment when contacted by The Jakarta Post on Monday. (syk)