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Abd. Rahman Hamid, Sejarah Maritim Indonesia.

Abd. Rahman Hamid, Sejarah Maritim Indonesia. Yogyakarta: Penerbit Ombak, 2013, xiii + 248 pp. ISBN 9786027544840. Price: IDR 50,000 (paperback).

Abd Rahman Hamid argues that in order for Indonesia to revitalize itself as a maritime nation, understanding its maritime history is critical. Hamid begins by revisiting the term 'archipelagic State', which has been inaccurately translated into 'negara kepulauan'. 'Archipelagic' is meant to show the importance of ocean, while 'kepulauan' focuses on land (pulau, island). Hamid's point is that while Indonesia is geographically a maritime nation, it is moving away from its maritime roots and identity.

Apparently, Hamid bases his view on Alfred Mahan's theory of maritime nations, which says that a country requires both 'naval power' and 'sea power' to be a great maritime nation (Chapter 2). 'Naval power' operates within the territorial sea of a country (internal operations), while 'sea power' deals with external operations beyond national territory, along strategic navigational routes. Hamid continues discussing two most important activities between the first and thirteenth centuries, which are navigation and trading (Chapter 3). It is followed by a thorough analysis of the history of Sriwijaya (Chapter 4) and Majapahit (Chapter 5). Hamid gives a detailed picture of Malacca Sultanate and its maritime zones in the Strait of Malacca, which was and still is one of the most important straits used for international navigation. By analysing the Portuguese and Spanish journeys to Nusantara (Chapter 7), Hamid also discusses the principle of mare clausum (closed sea, in which the ocean is controlled by certain powers/ countries). Following this, Hamid presents the principle of mare liberum (free sea, in which the ocean is free for any countries to navigate through and utilize) that was applied by the Makassar Kingdom (Chapter 8). These are two fundamental principles through which the contemporary laws of the sea have developed. In Chapter 9, Hamid discussed Ternate and Tidore, two sultanates in Nusantara that Hamid terms as 'maritime sultanate'. Hamid ends the book by rereading Mahan's view of maritime nations and what this suggests about the maritime history of Indonesia (Chapter 10).

In viewing Indonesia as an archipelagic State, Hamid reemphasizes Denys Lombard's view that the ocean can be not just a separator but a connector, and here includes the Malacca Strait, the Sunda Strait, the Java Sea, the Sea of Makassar, and the Maluku Sea (pp. 4-5). Makassar, with its view of mare liberum, effectively utilized ocean trade routes to boost its economy (p. 19), but, Hamid reminds us that such success stories have not continued in modern Indonesia. He criticizes Indonesia's poor strategy in developing its sea power by establishing two major naval bases only in Java (Jakarta and Surabaya) to cover the entire Nusantara (p. 30).

Hamid clearly wants to show his readers lessons learned from great kingdoms prior to the modern Indonesia to be applied in the current context. When discussing Sriwijaya, for example, Hamid does not only describe success stories but also draws important lessons from its decline, including its failure to maintain control over maritime trade routes and economy (p. 65, 82). This allowed the emergence of a new power, Majapahit in Java, which focused on the maritime economy (p. 71). One important lesson that Hamid presents is that relations between and among kingdoms, sultanates, dynasties was heavily influenced by their maritime interests (pp. 87-8), since access and control over maritime route of navigation delimited one's powers and shaped international relations, as was evident when China supported Malacca as Malacca was trying to liberate from Siam's hegemony (p. 90). Malacca at one stage became the first political force in the peninsula to match Siam's considerable strength (p. 92). One of its great achievements was the establishment of important laws called 'Undang-undang Laut Malaka' (the laws of the sea of Malacca) governing activities of navigation and trade (pp. 104-10). For example, the law governs the roles of each crew member of a vessel, which are analogous to the roles of government officials.

Hamid highlights the need for maritime division in Chapter 7 when he discusses Spanish and Portuguese exploring the world (p. 111). It was indeed the starting point of what nowadays people know as maritime delimitation. However, Hamid does not elaborate further how that seed of maritime delimitation has evolved over time and has become one of the most critical issues in international relations.

Hamid further presents the development of Makassar that became the biggest trading centre in Asia (p. 152). One important principle that Makassar held was mare liberum, that the ocean is for all nations so that it was open for trade with any country, including those from Europe. Makassar became a great kingdom for its creative leaders who managed to combine intellectual advancement and political wisdom (p. 155). In addition to its advancement in building boats, one of the greatest milestones achieved in relation to navigation and trade was the establishment of law of maritime and ocean affairs named after the initiator, Amanna Gappa. The law is called 'Hukum Laut Amanna Gappa', which consists of 21 comprehensive articles (pp. 163-4). Hamid ends his analysis on the development of maritime powers in Nusantara by a relatively long chapter on Ternate and Tidore Sultanates, whose spices attracted foreign powers, and trade spurred invention and advancement in navigation and vessel technology. Hamid concludes that Ternate and Tidore had adequate naval power to be called a maritime sultanate, though they did not possess enough sea power to control this strategic navigational route (p. 219). Hamid concludes that kingdoms and sultanates in Nusantara enjoyed partial success, since they enjoyed enough wealth and technological sophistication to benefit from maritime trade, yet didn't follow Mahan's contention that enduring powers require hegemonic control over the trade routes.

Hamid's work offers new insights to Indonesia's maritime past (though this 248-page book just scratches the surface of such rich history) and includes new sources on Bahasa Indonesia. It is a very good start for readers curious about the fascinating maritime history of Indonesia, though including better quality maps would have improved the book. Finally, 'Sejarah Maritim Indonesia' calls on scholars and Indonesians ourselves to reconsider our history and reimagine our future.

DOI: 10.1163/22134379-12340055

I Made Andi Arsana

Gadjah Mada University
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Author:Arsana, I. Made Andi
Publication:Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Date:Oct 1, 2013
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