Pulau Berhala

To Which Province Does this Island Belong?

Upon arrival at Pulau Berhala, after walking down the boardwalk, you will pass under the above sign that says: “WELCOME, to PULAU BERHALA, in the SINGKEP regency, of the KEPULAUAN RIAU province.

Upon arrival at Pulau Berhala you will walk down a boardwalk, then pass under a portal that reads: “WELCOME, to PULAU BERHALA, in the SINGKEP regency, of the Kepulauan Riau Province (KEPRI). Just 100 feet further is a smaller blue monument, erected by the Jambi Province, which they installed to make their claim to the island. The small blue Jambi monument is no longer legible. We were told that the governor of the Kepulauan Riau Province had the Jambi monument defaced.

Visitors to the island can’t help but wonder how and why the two provinces are battling over this small island. We have no intentions of intermingling with the affairs of Indonesia’s government, but to explain to visitors from outside Indonesia the confusing situation they will encounter when they invest in their trip here, we’ll add the below commentary to explain what we’ve come to understand.

KEPRI’s monument, stating their claim to the ownership of Pulau Berhala.

  • We were told that there are around 45 families that live on the KEPRI (Kepulauan Riau Province) side of the island. The total population of that side is said to be around 550 people.
  • There are 2 families that live on the Jambi side of the island. The long boardwalk, where boats tie up, is the dividing mark between the two sides.
  • The Jambi Province and Kepulauan Riau Province have been in a struggle over ownership of the island for a long period of time.
  • From talking with the people on the island, they don’t want Jambi to get possession. They are happy with KEPRI, mainly because that province always provide services for them, like building a school, clinic, building many block homes, providing welfare assistance in the way of food and supplies, etc. The people claim Jambi hasn’t provided such services.

Placard at the center of the monument pictured above. The text on this placard is translated below.

We have documents that shows Jambi’s right to possess all the island of Pulau Berhala, and it’s based squarely on the man Datuk Paduka Berhala. Multiple Jambi historians have written that the story of Datuk Paduka Berhala is filled with myths and inconsistencies. We translated one such article, and it can be obtained by clicking on the above link.

The Kepulauan Province has erected a monument proving their right of ownership. It appears as though they claim that a contract was entered into in 1857, giving them the right of ownership. The monument says (in Bahasa Indonesia and Dutch):

PULAU BERHALA DAN PULAU-PULAU DI SEKITARNYA

Pulau Berhala and all the islands in the area

ADALAH BAGIAN DARI DAERAH

Are all part of the area of the

KERAJAAN LINGGA RIAU

Kingdom of Lingga Riau

BERDASARKAN

Based on

CONTRACT MET DEN SULTAN

VAN LINGGA RIOUW EN ONDERHOORIGHEDEN

A Contract with Sultan Van Lingga

of Riau Lingga and the Surrounding Region

1 December 1857

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We’ve written several other articles about Pulau Berhala and Datuk Pulau Berhala. They can be accessed by clicking the below links.

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