Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister takes on China

Susi Pudjiastuti was scooping up lunch with one hand, using her thumb and two fingers to extricate bones from a chunk of fish. With the other hand, she simulated grinding a stiletto heel into the ground.

“This is what I can do if the Chinese try to play tricks on me,” said Ms. Pudjiastuti, the maritime affairs and fisheries minister of Indonesia. “I can smile very nicely and then I can use my high heel.”

“Very sharp,” she added, popping the piece of fish into her mouth.

Suffice it to say that Ms. Pudjiastuti is not a conventional Indonesian woman, much less a conventional cabinet minister. She chain smokes, although Indonesia’s health minister — one of eight women in the cabinet of President Joko Widodo — has warned her that a public figure should not be seen lighting up.

Susi Pudjiastuti, the maritime affairs and fisheries minister of Indonesia, is taking on illegal fishing boats, even those from China. CreditKemal Jufri for The New York Times

By  Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono
New York Times
Ms. Pudjiastuti likes her coffee black and her alcohol only in the form of champagne. “My family thinks I am a little bit of a nut case,” she said.

Perhaps it takes a little bit of a nut case to challenge Beijing, going so far as to seize Chinese fishing boats poaching in Indonesian waters. She has created a lot of enemies along the way, at home as well as abroad, but she says her success can be measured by the improved health of Indonesia’s fishing grounds, and she is not about to back down.

With more than 13,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation, yet its maritime sovereignty had long been neglected. When she was appointed in 2014, Ms. Pudjiastuti, a seafood and aviation magnate who never finished high school, inherited a ministry that was in danger of being eliminated. But she has transformed her portfolio, declaring war on foreign fishing boats that had encroached on territorial waters and threatened some of the world’s most biodiverse seas.

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni

Not all of the offenders have been from China. Boats from other Southeast Asian nations stray into Indonesia’s waters as well, costing the country at least $1 billion a year in lost resources, the United Nations has reported. Ms. Pudjiastuti has not relied on subtlety: Under her aegis, hundreds of impounded foreign vessels have been blown up.

But it is Ms. Pudjiastuti’s entanglements with the Chinese that have created the greatest uproar, while also making her an unlikely heroine for those calling for international defiance of Beijing’s muscular foreign policy.

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2 Responses to “Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister takes on China”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.

  2. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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