The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said that it has not ruled out lodging a formal protest against Indonesia over a shooting incident involving two Taiwanese fishing boats on Monday should the Southeast Asian nation fail to present further evidence backing its stated justifications for opening fire.
Citing an article published by the Central News Agency (CNA) earlier yesterday, the ministry said in a statement that Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti claimed that the two Taiwanese fishing boats — Sheng Te Tsai and Lien I Hsing No. 116 — were found illegally operating in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone by an Indonesian patrol boat in the small hours of Monday morning.
“Pudjiastuti alleged that the Indonesian patrol boat only opened fire on the two Taiwanese fishing boats — both of which are registered in Pingtung County’s Liouciou Township (琉球) — after they refused to stop and even tried to ram the patrol vessel,” the ministry said.
Photo: Yeh Yung-chien, Taipei Times
Video footage of the Sheng Te Tsai, recorded by the Indonesian patrol vessel and provided by the Indonesian government, does not prove the boat was fishing, nor does it show any attempts by the Sheng Te Tsai to ram the Indonesian patrol boat or any shooting, the ministry said.
Pudjiastuti showed CNA footage lasting 1 minute, 32 seconds that showed an Indonesian patrol vessel closely trailing the Sheng Te Tsai.
The patrol vessel shined a spotlight on the fishing boat many times and signaled for it to stop, but it did not receive any response from the Taiwanese boat, which continued on its way.
However, the footage does not have any images of the Taiwanese boat ramming the Indonesian patrol vessel or of it being shot at by the patrol vessel.
Pudjiastuti said a rope can be seen in the video hanging from the right rear side of the Taiwanese boat, which she said indicated that it was in the middle of a fishing operation at that time.
The Taiwanese boat was not flying any national flag, she added.
She said the two boats were being pursued within Indonesian territorial waters.
Based on Indonesia’s principles, any stateless boats found in Indonesian territorial waters are detained and their crew arrested, Pudjiastuti said, adding that the boats would then be sunk after all the people onboard have been evacuated.
“What is known for certain is that the Sheng Te Tsai was fired upon by an official Indonesian boat,” the ministry said, adding that it has instructed the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Indonesia to demand evidence for the claim that the boats attempted to ram Indonesian vessels, and to prove that the Taiwanese boats were fishing within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
If the Indonesian government fails to present such proof, the ministry has not ruled out registering a formal protest, the ministry added.
According to a facsimile report received by the Coast Guard Administration’s Duty Command Center on Monday, the two Taiwanese ships reported their location at 6 degrees 15 minutes north latitude and 97 degrees 40 minutes east longitude at 5:48am on Monday, when they said they were chased and fired upon by two vessels believed to belong to Indonesian authorities.
The Indonesian vessels allegedly fired 12 shots at the Taiwanese ships, but the 20 crew members of both ships were unharmed. The fishing boats later headed to Singapore as scheduled, the report said.
The ministry’s Public Diplomacy Coordination Council deputy director-general Andrew Lee (李憲章) said at a regular news conference in Taipei yesterday morning that while all the crew members onboard were safe and sound, opening fire under such circumstances is not an act that the international community would deem rational.
“However, given that it was an attempt by the Indonesian government to safeguard [the rights of] its fishermen, we can only take further action after ascertaining what really happened, such as the Taiwanese ships’ exact locations and whether they were actually fishing,” Lee said.
Judging from the speeds of the two fishing boats, as shown in satellite positioning data obtained by Taiwan, it is unlikely that they were fishing at that time, Fisheries Agency Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日耀) said.
If the two fishing boats were not involved in illegal fishing, the Indonesian patrol vessels violated international regulations by shooting at them, Tsay said.
He said Taiwan’s representative office in Indonesia would try to gather more information from the Indonesian side, and Taiwan’s representative office in Singapore would talk to the crew of the two fishing boats after they arrive.
Separately yesterday, Premier Simon Chang (張善政) on the sidelines of a plenary legislative session in Taipei criticized Indonesia’s use of violence against Taiwanese fishing ships.
“Even if the Taiwanese boats were indeed engaging in illegal activities in Indonesia’s territorial waters, it still should not have resorted to violence,” Chang said.
Chang said that since the shooting did not occur in the Indian Ocean — where the two Taiwanese ships had been working since they left Pingtung in November last year — the boats could have just been passing by, which should have been allowed even if they were in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
Necessary measures will be taken after Taiwan’s representative office in Indonesia ascertains the truth, he added.
Additional Reporting by CNA
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