Sand Island NTT Claimed by Australia, Indigenous Peoples Threaten to Take it to Court

Sand Island Claimed by Australia

The Dispute over Sand Island East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) between Indonesia and Australia is again a concern after the indigenous people of the Timor Sea asked the Kangaroo Country to leave the island.

Timor Sea Indigenous Peoples’ Customary Rights Mandate Holder Ferdi Tanoni also threatened to file a lawsuit for ownership of Sand Island with the Australian Commonwealth Court in Canberra.

“If Australia does not want to leave the Sand Island cluster, we are forced to take a case about the rights of our indigenous peoples to the Australian Commonwealth Court in Canberra,” said Ferdi Tanoni in Kupang, quoting Antara, Monday (24/10/2022).

The chairman of the Peduli Timor Barat Foundation stated that Australia’s claim to the Sand Island of NTT triggered a strong reaction from the Indonesian people.

According to him, so far, although he has always been urged to lift his feet from the Sand Island cluster, Australia seems to be indifferent. In fact, they last did petroleum drilling in the island area.

“In fact, the area is absolutely owned by the indigenous peoples of Timor, Rote, and Alor,” said Ferdi.

This, he continued, was proven by the tombs of Rote’s ancestors and various artifacts in the island cluster.


The Indonesia-Australia dispute over Pasir Island NTT has been going on since 1974 when Canberra-Jakarta agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding territorial wilaya boundaries. At that time, Australia rushed to claim Pasir Island as its territory and until now it is still in dispute with Indonesia.

Sand Island consists of a cluster of small uninhabited islands. Australia refers to this cluster of islands as the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

The island is about 170 km from Ntt’s Rote (Roti) Island and is 320 km from the northwest coast of Australia.

The Australian government through the Australian Geoscience agency also admitted that the island’s proximity to Indonesia was the cause of the dispute.

“Proximity to Indonesian territory has caused the island to be the subject of joint official discussions in recent years,” an Australian statement on the website reads.

This island dispute is not very much heard by Indonesians because it is not as big as the case of Sipadan Island and Ligitan or the Ambalat Block between Indonesia and Malaysia.

According to pre-colonial history, Pasir Island NTT is the territory of Indonesia. The claim is based on history that this island is often a transit area for Indonesian fishermen off the sea.

According to the customs and traditions of local residents, the people of NTT should be able to access and take advantage of the potential of the sea in the island area. However, NTT Regional Police data revealed that from 2004-2006, around 3,000 NTT fishermen were arrested by Australians for entering the area.

The latest incident occurred in 2021 when several fishermen were arrested and their boats were sunk by Australian border police, for allegedly encroaching on national borders and fishing in the Sand Island area.

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