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(3/17/2007) Indonesia is an island nation. In fact, according to the Government who have people who keep track of such things, the Republic actually has a total of 17,504 islands, counted at low tide.
Quick, Quick, Think of Some Names
Recently there's been something of a panic in the national corridors of power when it was realized that 38.3% or 6,702 of all the Country's islands were nameless. Making matters worse, legal experts tell us that Indonesia's failure to name all of its islands could be prejudicial to national interest in future jurisdictional disputes brought before international courts. Fail to name all your sand bars and islands and face the risk of losing them when some slick-talking legal eagle uses your "failure to name" to prove neglect, justifying hegemonistic moves by neighboring countries. In any case, that's the argument offered by the lawyers who number islands among their clients.
While such thinking might sound funny on the surface, or at least on sea-level, the fact is that this arguments was used against Indonesian territorial interests in recent territorial disputes with Malaysia for sovereignty over Sipadan and Ligitan islands.
In order to help strengthen national claims over all of Indonesia's 6,702 unnamed islands, a special "island naming" task force has been established under the Home Affairs Minister Moh Ma'ruf to quickly provide the missing names and file notifications with international bodies and agencies necessary to secure sovereignty. To make sure all the Country's islands get named, funding has been allocated to name unnamed islands most at risk in Indonesia's border regions - including Riau province (394 islands); Papua or West Irian (968 island); North Maluku Islands (631 island); East Nusa Tenggara Islands (685 islands); and the Bangka-Belitung Islands (639 islands).
A Better Alternative – Pay to Name an Island?
A recent report by Forbes Magazine identifying a growing number of millionaires and billionaires worldwide, many of whom now live in Asia, suggests that Indonesia could solve its lack of island names and perhaps retire a large portion of its national debt - all in one fell swoop.
Let's suppose, just for a moment, an enterprising bureaucrat possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit seriously considers our suggestion to extend 100-year naming rights to millionaires eager to leave their mark on the world by having their name affixed to an Indonesian island. Because all island are not created equal - depending on size, location and other attributes the right to name an island after yourself, a loved one or your recently deceased Cocker Spaniel may have a varying price tag. For instance, putting your name on a prime quality, idyllic, uninhabited tropical isle could cost, say, US$1.5 million while putting your moniker on a rocky outcrop just barely visible at high tide might go for as little as a few hundred thousand dollars. Apply the law of averages and assume that Indonesia gets a cool million for each of its unnamed islands and you end up with US$6.7 billion – a hefty piece of change by any standard and certainly enough for having to put up with names like Pulau Bill Gates, Donald Trump Atoll and Warren Buffet Lagoon for the next century. And while we're at it, we might as well offer the truly-rich convenient renewal options for another hundred years at the same price, corrected, of course, for inflation over the intervening hundred years.
Lucky purchasers could be issued with an attractive certificate issued by the Indonesian Department of Home Affairs confirming the location of the newly-named island complete with detailed GPS coordinates and a satellite picture courtesy of NASA.
Visit Your Namesake
But since we're on a roll, let's not stop at simple naming rights! The Indonesian Department of Culture and Tourism could be encouraged to offer luxury cruises to the super-rich wishing to spend a few days visiting the island bearing their name. The additional much-needed foreign exchange this might generate has to be worth a coupe of extra billion.
But, as a final precautionary thought, we'll probably have to ban the citizens of any country sharing a border with Indonesia from purchasing the rights to name any of our islands. Imagine what some clever lawyers might do with a slip-up in that area in a future legal battle over island sovereignty.
Interested? Send Us Your Check!
We admit this idea is something of a long-shot, one requiring intensive lobbying with the Indonesian House of Representatives. So if Bill, Donald and Warren are seriously interested in this offer of tropical immortality we urge you guys not to delay and send us full payment in advance now while we get busy arguing your case before Indonesian legislators.