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No Aussie, Indonesia make up in sight

Publication Date : 19-02-2014

 

The healing of broken ties with Australia is in limbo, again, following another allegation of spying by Indonesia’s southern neighbour.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told members of the House of Representatives Commission I - which oversees defence, foreign affairs and information - that Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, Nadjib Riphat, would not set foot back in Australia until tensions between Jakarta and Canberra eased.

“Pak Nadjib is still in Jakarta and active in the ministry. We don’t think that the time is right for us to send him back. However, he continues to give us insight on affairs at the representative office [in Australia] although informally,” Marty said on Tuesday.

He said that Nadjib would continue in such a role for the foreseeable future. “He will take an ad hoc role in consolidating business at the embassy. This will continue if there is no positive progress [in the current situation],” Marty said.

Indonesia expects ties with Australia to remain on ice for at least six months — the time it will take to negotiate a code of conduct to govern intelligence gathering in the wake of reports Canberra spied on top Indonesians.

In the House meeting, Marty also said Australia would have to regain Indonesia’s trust before the two countries could resume talks on a code of conduct.

“We don’t want more surprises in the future. Thus, we will not be in a hurry to start a discussion about the code of conduct,” he said.

In November last year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that Jakarta was freezing military and intelligence cooperation with Canberra, following snooping allegations on Yudhoyono and his inner circle and Australia’s “turn back the boats” policy.

Jakarta has also recently blasted Australia for going too far in a joint spying operation on Indonesia during last year’s trade dispute with the US and offering to share back room information with the US, as revealed by The International New York Times on Sunday.

Yudhoyono demanded the two countries jointly draft a code of conduct before Jakarta reviewed the temporary halt.

Contacted separately, spokesman at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Agus Barnas said the Australian government must make the first move to show that it meant business.

Agus was commenting on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent statement that he wanted the negotiations for a new joint code of conduct with Indonesia to be “much faster”.

Australian media reported that Abbott had expressed frustration over the negotiations.

“We’re waiting for Australia to make [the next] move,” Agus said. “Australian foreign minister [Julie Bishop] came here [December last year] after the incident and agreed to the six-point road map. Therefore, they need to follow it up.”

Agus was referring to the precondition that ties between the two countries be normalised, as laid out by Yudhoyono in November last year.

There had been no meeting regarding a specific time frame for a resumption of relations, Agus added.

He said the circulating information “was merely a rough estimate” based on conjecture that a new government would form after October this year.

In the Commission I meeting with Marty, a number of lawmakers raised concerns over the vacant ambassadorial post in Canberra.

Lawmaker Tri Tamtomo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction pressed Marty on the government’s decision to withdraw Nadjib from Canberra.

“We need to know whether the government will ever send our Ambassador back to Canberra because it will affect the sovereignty of our country,” Tri said.

Other lawmakers grilled Marty on the steps taken to secure lines of communication with all envoys abroad following the spying revelations.

“What has the government done to improve information security in all of our embassies following reports of surveillance on us?” Chandra Tirta Wijaya of the National Mandate Party (PAN) queried.

Responding to the question, Marty said that the government had upgraded security measures including ensuring that information shared by Indonesian officials was encrypted.

“We have strengthened cooperation with the National Intelligence Agency [BIN] and National Encryption Agency [Lemsaneg]. We will continue to improve it,” he said.

 

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