Government called on to seek negotiation on Natuna incident

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A lawmaker calls on the government to meet before issuing different statements on the Natuna sea incident involving Chinese fishermen.

Deputy chairman of the Commission I of the House of Representatives Hanafi Rais said the government should come out with one voice in seeking to settle the incident.

"The step to be taken should be to seek negotiations with the Chinese government to cool down the conflict in the South China Sea," Hanafi said here on Tuesday.

The government has to stick to the international sea law, as China openly claimed that they have maritime dispute with Indonesia, he added.

He said Indonesian officials should not issue different statements in seeking to settle such as incident.

"We have asked the government to be united in stand in facing China or any country transgressing our sovereignty," he said.

He pointed to different statements issued by the foreign minister, who called for negotiation and the coordinating minister for law, security and political affairs Luhut Panjaitan saying that the incident should be studied first.

"If we the government officials could not be united in facing outsiders how could the cabinet be united in handling domestic affairs," hes aid.

Earlier Retno Marsudi said the incident occurred on Friday (June 17) when the navy came across 10-12 foreign fishing vessels spreading fish net in the Indonesian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Natuna.

The navy ordered the boats, apparently all Chinese fishing vessels, to stop when they began to flee.

The navy came after them and gave warning shots to the air and to the sea in front of the ships.

The fishing boats refused to obey the order but finally the navy ship succeeded in forcing one of them to stop and was escorted to the navy base in Natuna.

The Chinese government claimed that the shots hit one of the crew members but Retno denied saying non one of injured.

The vessels has seven crew members including a woman.

China has been disputing with a number of other ASEAN member countries including the Philippines and Vietnam over sovereignty over small islands in the South China Sea.

Indonesia has not openly taken side in the conflicts and always calls for restraints and seeking settlement through negotiation.(*)