Subject: AFR: Jakarta seeks new defence pact with Australia

Australian Financial Review Monday, October 13, 2003

Jakarta seeks new defence pact

By Andrew Burrell in Bali and Rowan Callick

Indonesia has called for the revival of a security agreement with Australia to fight terrorism as the federal government pushes to allow its offshore spies to carry guns so they can participate in risky operations.

Indonesia's most senior minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, backed the return of the controversial defence pact at a function in Melbourne on Friday night before joining Prime Minister John Howard on a flight to Bali for yesterday's bombing commemoration ceremony.

He said a formal agreement between the defence forces of the two countries was necessary to improve the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism.

The push to elevate bilateral defence ties came as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday revealed that Australian Security Intelligence Service agents operating alongside Indonesia's special forces would be allowed to carry weapons when participating in anti-terrorist actions under legislation to be introduced to parliament this week.

"What this will do will give ASIS officers the capacity to defend themselves, that is not to become 007-type of agents, but at least to use weapons in self-defence," he said. The agents are now banned from being involved in operations using weapons, but have sought them.

He said that under the proposal to be put to parliament, the Foreign Affairs Minister would have the power to say whether ASIS officers could work with the Indonesian special forces, which have been criticised for human rights abuses and are now at odds with the Australian military over the renewal of training links.

Mr Howard and Mr Yudhoyono, who is the Co-ordinating Minister for Security, both emphasised the need for closer ties in speeches yesterday during the ceremony marking the loss of 202 people, including 88 Australians, in the Bali nightclub bombing - the worst terrorist attack in the world since September 11, 2001.

In a strongly worded address, Mr Yudhoyono said the Indonesian government and its people were resolute in condemning terrorism, and in co-operating with other nations to eradicate it.

"Some [terrorists] are still on the run, but make no mistake: we will hunt them, we will find them, we will bring them to justice," he said.

"These diabolical men and their brand of evil simply have no place in our society. They belong in our darkest dungeons, locked away deep beneath our children's playgrounds. History will condemn them forever."

Mr Howard said Australia would never forget the Bali bombings, which had brought Australia and Indonesia closer together and had taught Australia "that we in this part of the world must make common cause to fight the scourge of terrorism".

"It's taught us about our strength and it's taught us about the need to co-operate with others in the ongoing fight against the terrible deeds and the terrible hatreds that caused so much pain and so much misery a year ago today," Mr Howard said.

The emotional multi-faith service was attended by about 2000 people, including about 600 Australians who were either survivors of the bombing or family members of victims and who were flown to Bali by the federal government.

Indonesia cancelled the previous defence agreement with Australia during the tensions over independence for East Timor in 1999, and Australia then pulled back from training Indonesian military personnel.

The Howard government decided in August to reinstate training exercises with Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, but the Weekend AFR reported that the Indonesian army was objecting to an Australian plan to exclude selected Kopassus members because of involvement in human rights abuses.

The original Agreement on Maintaining Security, secretly negotiated by then prime minister Paul Keating and his counterpart, President Soeharto in 1995, focused on consultation, training and technical exchange, but did not impose a mutual defence obligation.

Richard Woolcott, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia and the joint host of Friday's Melbourne function for Mr Yudhoyono, said he welcomed support for a renewed defence agreement from Mr Yudhoyono, a former four-star general and possible presidential candidate next year.

During his visit to Australia last week Mr Yudhoyono said: "In the age of 9/11 and Bali and Jakarta Marriott, security can best be promoted through co-operation.

"This is leading us to change in our security culture. We can ensure our security only by sharing our intelligence with each other."

In Bali, Mr Howard, joined by Opposition Leader Simon Crean, laid a wreath at a new memorial built near the site of the Sari Club, which was destroyed in last year's blast. The memorial includes a plaque containing the victims' names and 22 flags representing the countries they came from.

Mr Howard also laid the foundation stone for a new eye hospital in Denpasar and inspected a new intensive care and burns wing at the Sanglah hospital. Both projects were funded by Australia's $10.5 million post-bombing aid package for Bali.

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