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Indonesia and its two closest neighbours

Updated On: Jun 01, 2007

As predicted by many observers,   the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I (looking at defence and foreign affairs) was quick to renounce ratification of the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Singapore because it is considered disadvantageous to Indonesia.

Quoted by Antara, House Commission I member from Democrat Party faction FX Sukarno pointed out that the use of an area in Indonesia for a joint exercise that would involve a third party would be more advantageous to Singapore. He said the agreement was really imbalance and Indonesia would take no benefit from it besides access to equipment and military facility from Singapore.

DPR has asked the government to improve the DCA with Singapore especially with regard to its implementation in a hearing between the commission and Military (TNI) chief Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto and Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono on Monday May 28. Concerns from the parliament include issues like the duration of joint exercise, third party involvement and limits of training areas as well as compensation for possible environmental damage. The commission also doubted that the defense cooperation agreement might be used as a means to push for the implementation of the extradition treatyHowever, Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said earlier on the day that the Defence Cooperation Agreement was not a compensation for the extradition agreement between Indonesia and Singapore. He said Indonesia should not fear nor hate Singapore although the former`s military, defense and economy are not as strong as the latter`s. Indonesia must have the courage to take a stance and wage intellectual war by improving its capabilities and defense technology, among others by establishing cooperation with Singapore.

TNI Chief Djoko Suyanto also defended the DCA.  He highlighted that cooperation with other countries including Singapore is important as the existing defense budget is inadequate to procure increasingly sophisticated weaponry equipment.  The joint training is also an opportunity to improve TNI`s capabilities and skills in carrying out its role, task and function.. He reassured the House that the defense cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore will not reduce the Indonesian people`s sense of nationalism, or even relinquish part of the country’s sovereignty. "We have to take advantage of the existing opportunities," he added.

Hikmahanto Juwana of the University of Indonesia said Indonesia and Singapore should, therefore, go back to the negotiation table to make the package more appealing to House legislators. He assured that this measure would in no way damage Indonesia's international credibility. "Without the DCA, Singapore would (still) sign the extradition agreement to show the international world it is a world financial center that is clean of money laundering," he said.

Meanwhile, an incident in Australia involving Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso has caused some glitches in Indonesia- Australia relations. During Governor Suityoso’s official visit to Australia, two Australian police officers forced their way into his hotel room to deliver a court summons on the `Balibo Five 1975`. Indonesia tendered a formal protest Wednesday to Australia over the ill-treatment of Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso in Sydney on Tuesday, seeking the neighboring country's apology. The ‘Balibo’ case concerned the death of some journalists and cameraman, one of them Australian, when they were in East Timor to cover the Indonesian forces’ invasion of the latter.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda has summoned Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Bill Farmer to file a protest over the indecent act of the two Australian policemen against Sutiyoso. According to a spokesman for the foreign ministry, Kristiarto Legowo, there were two points taken up with Bill Farmer, namely the aspect of procedure and that of the Balibo issue. "From procedural aspect, it could be said that the way the Australian policemen barging into Sutiyoso`s hotel room without any notification was improper and unacceptable," he said. Regarding the Balibo issues itself, he added, the government of Indonesia regarded the Balibo case as a closed case. When the Balibo incident took place, Sutiyoso said he was an Army captain, but insisted he and his company never entered Balibo during his assignment in the East Timor operation. The inquest by the New South Wales coroner followed lobbying by a wife of one of the reporters for it to be held and inconclusive Australian parliamentary inquiries.

This incident will no doubt add fuel to the countries recent tensions over Australia's military assistance to East Timor when it broke away from Indonesia, and other human-rights issues including the conviction of several young Australians on drug charges in Bali. It ignited nationalistic demonstrators who regard it as an insult toIndonesia.. However, it also boosted Sutiyoso’s popularity as national figure. He reportedly intends to run for the next presidential/vice-presidential race.

After two days of demonstration by hundreds of Indonesians outside the Australian embassy, Australia acted to defuse the tensions with an apparent apology from the Australian ambassador to Governor Sutiyoso. The latter urged his supporters who were outside the Australian Embassy not to over-react as the ambassador had apologized to him personally over the incident.  (1 June 2007)

Sources

House told to assert RI interests in defense deal (Jakarta Post, 29 May 2007)

Singapore poses no threat, minister tells House (Jakarta Post, 29 May 2007)

Minister: RI should not be afraid of Singapore (Antara, 29 May 2007)

Govt urged to improve defense cooperation agreement with Singapore (Antara, 29 May 2007)

House commission I renounces DCA ratification (Antara, 28 May 2007)

Defense agreement not compensation of extradition agreement: Minister (Jakarta Post, 28 May 2007)

Indonesia asks for immediate clarification from Australia (Antara, 29 May 2007)

Correct steps taken on Australia`s indecent acts on Sutiyoso: minister (Antara, 30 May 2007)

Indonesia demands apology from Australia as relations fray again (Antara, 30 May 2007)

RI seeks Aussie apology over Sutiyoso 'insult' (Jakarta Post, 29 May 2007)

Australia says sorry to Jakarta governor (Straits Times, 1 June 2007)







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