Wednesday, October 2, 2013


    Jakarta, Oct 2, 2013 (Antara) - The recent visit of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Indonesia is believed to have strengthened cooperation between the two countries in handling the issue of the boat people, who use Indonesia as a transit country while making their way to Australia.
         Abbott's first overseas state visit since taking over as Prime Minister on September 7, took place just a few days after a sea tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 31 would-be asylum seekers, whose boat sank off the southern coast of Indonesia while they were trying to sail to Australia.

         Indonesia had been worried earlier that the Abbott administration's new policies on the boat people might violate the country's sovereignty.
         Australia was reportedly among other things, turning the boats back to Indonesia, paying Indonesian villagers for information on human traffickers and buying fishing boats used for smuggling.
         In response to Australia¿s plan called "Operation Sovereign Borders," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa reportedly told his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in September that Jakarta "could not accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate sovereignty."
    Marty Natalegawa and Bishop had met a day before the opening of the 68th U.N. General Assembly in New York on September 24.
         "I think, the message has been conveyed loud and clear and has been understood well," Natalegawa had said after meeting Bishop to discuss preparations for the visit of Abbott to Jakarta on September 30.
         He said that during the meeting Bishop had again explained the efforts that Australia would make to prevent the arrival of the boat people from Indonesia, without violating Indonesia's sovereignty.
         "There are steps that we can take, but they should be orderly and respect the two countries' sovereignty," Natalegawa stated.
         Indonesia's firm stance was also reiterated by the foreign minister, who was lauded by international political analyst Teuku Rezasyah.
         "Indonesia's warning to Australia under the new administration led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott that it should not violate Indonesia's sovereignty while handling the boat people issue is justified and is in accordance with the need to protect the sovereignty of the state corridor," Rezasyah said.
         Australia should also be reminded of its position as the co-chairman of the Bali Process, which both countries have agreed to use while handling human-trafficking issues.
         "The Indonesian stance is already aligned with the principles of preserving its national sovereignty. The two countries should look at the root of the problem," Rezasyah remarked.
         Referring to Abbott's statements while he was campaigning, where he stated his intention to buy the boats of Indonesian fishermen and pay coastal residents to provide information on political asylum seekers, Rezasyah said such an issue could interfere with bilateral relations.
           "No country is willing to be treated in that manner," he stressed.
        Prior to Abbott's visit, International law expert at the University of Indonesia (UI) Hikmahanto Juwana had also reminded the Indonesian government to adopt a firm stance on the Australian government's boat people policy.
         Despite being a polite host, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should be firm and not tolerate any such requests, which are against the country's Constitution and sovereignty and which might be posed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Juwana said in Depok on September 26.
         Juwana, who is also UI's International Law dean, noted that Indonesia should refuse if Australia expected the country to resolve the boat people's problems alone, as well as provide money for it.
         He also suggested that Indonesia should also refuse to allow Australian ships from entering Indonesia's territorial waters as they were only trying to drive the boat people away.
         The boat people's problem should be addressed jointly by the concerned countries, including Australia as the destination country, Indonesia as the transit country, and the boat people's countries of origin.
         He reminded President Yudhoyono not to agree to any barter of Australia providing foreign assistance in place of letting Indonesia resolve the boat people issue.
         "Don't be persuaded by promises that foreign aid for Indonesia will not be cut, as long as Indonesia allows its soil to become 'a killing field' for asylum seekers and refugees wanting to go to Australia," Juwana stated.
         He said it was about time for Indonesia to regain its sovereignty, as some nations had used financial assistance as a means of intervening in Indonesia's sovereignty.
         About 400 boats carrying asylum seekers have arrived in Australia over the past 12 months and about 45,000 asylum seekers have arrived since late 2007, when the former Australian Labor government relaxed border policies, eventually tightening them again in the face of a voter backlash.
         Efforts to prevent the arrival of the boat people and human trafficking are one of the priorities spelt out by the new Australian prime minister at the beginning of his leadership.
        As has been reported by the media, Operation Sovereign Borders Australia will carry out various action plans, including sending back boats ferrying asylum seekers to Indonesia before they reach Australia's  shores.
        But Abbot has also assured that Australia will respect Indonesia's sovereignty with regards to the implementation of the policy.
        "People smuggling is an issue of sovereignty, especially for Australia," Abbott stated. "But I do want to stress Australia's total respect for Indonesia's sovereignty."
    "The last thing I would ever want to do is anything that doesn't show the fullest possible respect for Indonesia¿s sovereignty," Abbott told Australian radio recently.
         After receiving Tony Abbot at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on September 30, President Yudhoyono said Indonesia and Australia needed to cooperate to settle the issue of the boat people.
        "Indonesia has continuously made efforts to overcome the problem and so has Australia. But it would be better to have bilateral cooperation based on the Bali Process to successfully overcome the problem," he stated.
        President Yudhoyono pointed out that Indonesia and Australia had both suffered the consequences of the human-trafficking problem, as hundreds of foreigners passed through Indonesia every year seeking a way to reach Australia.
        "Australia and Indonesia are both victims of human trafficking and have to deal with the issue of the boat people. For instance, there are many people from the Middle East and other nations who come here and become a social and economic burden for Indonesia. The solution to overcome this problem is effective cooperation between Indonesia and Australia," Yudhoyono suggested.
        Speaking after holding a bilateral meeting with Yudhoyono, Abbott said the two had a frank talk and stressed his respect for the sovereignty of Australia's northern neighbor.
         Sharing Yudhoyono's views, Abbott told reporters that, "It's not a question of forcing anyone. It's a question of working very cooperatively and constructively with our neighbors to ensure that this terrible problem, not just for us but for our region, is addressed and stopped."
    "We absolutely respect Indonesia's sovereignty and we would never do or propose anything which is contrary to that," he added.
         Abbott looked forward to working even more cooperatively with Indonesia in the future.
        Indonesian Security Coordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto has been put in charge of coordinating with Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison regarding the asylum seeker issue.
         "We realize, that apart from the Bali process, we need another kind of cooperation at the bilateral level between Indonesia and Australia," Yudhoyono said.  ***1***



(T.F001/A/BESSR/A/A. Abdussalam) 02-10-
2013 17:17:11

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