Of course, the fishermen are happy to be involved in such a big event and proud to be able to partake in protecting the maritime area, which is our source of livelihood.
Ambon, Maluku (ANTARA) - Dozens of fishing boats maneuvered to form a circle in Ambon Bay during a parade held to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Indonesian National Defence Force (TNI) in early October 2022.

The small boats sped to escape from a flotilla of the Republic of Indonesia’s warships (KRI) under the command of the Indonesian Naval Base IX/Ambon.

It seemed to be the main attraction of the sailing pass parade, which displayed the excellence of the defense equipment of the TNI and the Indonesian Police (Polri) in the waters of Maluku province.

The roar of the engines of the ships with a capacity of two gross tonnage (GT) was heard, as the fishermen moved their vessels with high speed.

The act drew loud applause from the audience. The fishermen looked happy because they were proud to be able to participate in the activity.

"Of course, the fishermen are happy to be involved in such a big event and proud to be able to partake in protecting the maritime area, which is our source of livelihood," Pieter Tehupuring, a 55-year-old fisherman from Silale village, Ambon city, Maluku province, told ANTARA with a smile.

The TNI anniversary is commemorated every October 5.

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Knowing Rapala

The dozens of fishermen who took part in the commemoration of the TNI's anniversary were Marine Guard Volunteers (Rapala). Tehupuring serves as the deputy head of the organization.

Rapala has become a great help in safeguarding the maritime sovereignty of the eastern region of Indonesia, especially Maluku province.

Since most of the province’s area consists of waters, naturally, protecting the region requires the involvement of many parties.

According to the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office of Maluku province, the total area of Maluku Sea is 658,294 square kilometers or equivalent to 92.4 percent of the total area of the province, which is 712,479 square kilometers.

Moreover, the number of islands in the region stands at 1,024, of which 331 are uninhabited.

Hence, it is not easy to maintain the security of Maluku province as the province is considered vulnerable due to its geographical characteristics.

The current number and capability of the military, police, and other government maritime institutions are disproportional to the size of their working area.

Criminal acts, such as illegal fishing by foreign fishermen, drug trafficking, and weapons smuggling are the real threats to security in the area.

The local community has been involved in protecting the maritime area since a long time ago, even prior to the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) for the Eastern Maritime Zone inviting them to collaborate in safeguarding the maritime area by establishing the Rapala in early 2022.

Even before Rapala was established, Tehupuring frequently provided some information on maritime security to Bakamla.

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The Rapala has 30 members who come from villages in Nusaniwe district, Ambon city, and Maluku province (such as Amahusu, Seilale, Latuhalat, and Urimessing).

Most of the members are fishermen, while the rest are religious leaders and students. The members serve as an information network on accidents or crimes occurring at sea, which they share using a social media group.

Through the social media group, they also receive information on weather forecasts and sea wave conditions from Bakamla.

This information is very important for fishermen since they may get lost at sea while fishing in bad weather.

The members of Rapala are also trained in basic rescue techniques. Tehupuring has opined that the knowledge will prove very useful for fellow fishermen who get into accidents at sea.

They are performing their activities voluntarily since Rapala members do not get any honorarium.

The pride of joining Rapala is being able to contribute to protecting the sea -- which is their source of livelihood.

In addition, through Rapala, they can voice their interests to improve the capacity and increase awareness about the difficulties faced by small fishermen in Ambon city -- for instance, currently, it is hard for the small fishermen to go fishing since the Ambon city government has restricted the sale of fuel at gas stations.

In fact, at least 35 boats used by the Rapala members rely heavily on kerosene for fuel.

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Exemplary Rapala

According to the head of Bakamla for the Eastern Maritime Zone, Admiral Haris Djoko Nugroho, it is not enough to only collect maritime data and information through satellite, radar, as well as state-owned monitoring equipment without involving the coastal communities.

Hence, the establishment of Rapala in Ambon city has become a model for the implementation of maritime security since it has helped increase the awareness of all parties regarding the importance of people’s contribution to the nation.

The initiative to get involved in safeguarding the maritime area came from the community themselves, thus Bakamla decided to accommodate, organize, and form a coordination forum for them, which was called Rapala.

Rapala members in Ambon city are fostered and given maritime security training so that they can become the forerunners for early detection and sources of information on accidents and crimes at sea.

Rapala’s role in early detection will not only help Bakamla, but also other maritime institutions, such as the Indonesian Navy, Water Police Unit (Polair), as well as National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

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Hence, Rapala is not only an organization for maritime security enthusiasts, but also a resource for security monitoring.

The Bakamla for the Eastern Maritime Zone plans to propose the establishment of Rapala in several other areas in 2023, including Kupang city (East Nusa Tenggara province) and Papua province.

The spirit of collaboration and collective awareness of Rapala in Maluku province is expected to strengthen the integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and improve the welfare of coastal communities by optimizing the wealth of maritime resources, which often get stolen.

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Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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