RIAU AND THE “GROWTH TRIANGLE”
The Orang Suku Laut (Tribe of Sea People) are tribal indigenes of the Riau Archipelago, Indonesia. They are commonly referred to by Indonesians as Orang Laut (Sea People) and in this chapter, we will use this shorter term. In Riau, they are generally recognized as the “indigenous Malays” (Melayu Asli). For centuries, the sea and coastal areas have been both home and workplace for them. They live in an area which has, in recent times, been undergoing accelerated changes in the name of economic development. Global demands for strand- and sea-resources confront them with new forms of territorial tenure which either threaten their livelihoods or exclude them from their habitats and resource zones.
The geographical focus of this chapter is the archipelagic part of Riau Province (Propinsi Riau) in Indonesia. The province comprises the Riau Archipelago (Kepulauan Riau), covering over 3,200 islands in the South China Sea, and the Riau hinterland (Riau Daratan), located in the mideastern part of Sumatra. The total population of Riau Province is 4,733,948. Approximately 725,865 of the total population reside in archipelagic Riau, with a multi-ethnic mix that includes Orang Laut and other Melayu, Javanese, Baweanese, Minangkabau, Bugis, Flores, Chinese, and others (<www.riau.go.id/ penduduk/penduduk.php>). Presently, the main economic activities of the local inhabitants of Riau Archipelago are fishing, farming, forestry, and trading.
In late 1989, the Riau Archipelago became a key part of the “Growth Triangle” – a three-country economic subregion comprising Singapore, Johor in Malaysia, and Riau in Indonesia. Hence the “Growth Triangle” is also known as SIJORI (Singapore–Johor–Riau) or the IMS (Indonesia–Malaysia– Singapore) Triangle. (See Map 14.1.) The concept of the Growth Triangle was first mooted in December 1989 by Mr Goh Chok Tong, who became Singapore's Prime Minister in November 1990 (Business Times, 9 October 1990, p. 11). The economic logic was that these three geographically contiguous areas would form a larger supranational region with a greater growth potential than each area alone. Their different resource endowments and comparative economic advantages would enable them to complement, rather than compete with, each other.