Subject: SMH: Artful dodging on treaty's more unpalatable parts

also: Artful dodging on treaty's more unpalatable parts

Sydney Morning Herald November 9, 2006

Indonesia pact shows end to bad times: PM

Cynthia Banham

THE imminent signing of a security treaty with Indonesia showed the bilateral relationship had moved on from the troubled times surrounding East Timor's independence and the West Papuan asylum seekers, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said yesterday.

The wide-ranging pact, which has been under negotiation for two years, will be signed on the island of Lombok next week by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, and his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirayuda.

Mr Howard said yesterday: "I think it's a manifestation of the balanced maturity of the relationship.

"I welcome it. It does show that our relationship has moved on and absorbed some of the adversity surrounding it, arising out of East Timor and also more recently out of the 43 asylum seekers."

The security treaty will cover counter-terrorism, transnational crime and nuclear co-operation, and commit Jakarta and Canberra not to support separatist causes in each other's countries.

Its signing was also welcomed by Labor.

The Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, Kevin Rudd, said the treaty went "some way to meeting Labor's repeated call for over two years for the implementation of a comprehensive regional counter-terrorism strategy for South- East Asia".

"This is a positive step forward on a long road towards a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy for our own region, our own neighbourhood, our own backyard," Mr Rudd said. "Given the continuing threat of terrorism in our own region, strong relationships with our neighbours must remain a critical priority for any Australian government."

The treaty was was criticised by a number of groups because of concerns about West Papua. Australia's granting of protection visas to 43 West Papuan asylum seekers earlier this year created a huge diplomatic rift.

The president of the International Commission of Jurists, John Dowd, QC, said such a significant treaty "should be a matter of public consultation" before Australia becomes bound by it. Mr Dowd said, "At a time when Indonesian defence forces are being used against some of the peoples of Indonesia such as in West Papua this is a matter of serious concern to Australians."

He said the treaty should include a provision for human rights monitors and foreign journalists to be allowed free access to West Papua.

The businessman and activist Ian Melrose released results of a poll he commissioned on the treaty, which showed 64 per cent of Australians supported a clause which guaranteed access to foreign journalists to areas of Indonesia such as West Papua.

The Newspoll survey also found 72 per cent of respondents supported free access for human rights monitors.

Mr Downer said the treaty would not mean Australia could not take more asylum seekers from West Papua.

"It's nothing to do with asylum seekers in that sense," he said. "It's to do with not obviously supporting activities that are going to be in one way or another a threat to each other's countries."

Professor Tim Lindsey, the director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, said the treaty would not radically change the existing relationship.

"I'd say that it is a reflection of the reality of relations between the two countries which are closely entwined because of mutual dependence, in part in relation to security regarding terrorist groups in the region," he said.


Sydney Morning Herald November 9, 2006

Artful dodging on treaty's more unpalatable parts

Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent in Jakarta

JOHN HOWARD and Alexander Downer should trumpet a new security treaty with Indonesia, but their attempts to play down elements unpalatable to some Australians - suppressing support for Papuan activists and assisting Indonesia's nuclear ambitions - are disingenuous.

Mr Downer quickly claimed credit for securing the treaty, but the real plaudits must go to his counterpart, Hassan Wirayuda, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

It was Yudhoyono who rose above his anguish at Australia granting asylum to 43 Papuans to resurrect the negotiations. And it was Yudhoyono, then defence minister, who suggested several years ago that the security pact signed by Paul Keating and torn up amid East Timor's tumultuous path to independence should be replaced.

In his attempts to appease Indonesia, Downer gave significant ground. Under the treaty to be signed on Monday, Australia will not only support Indonesian sovereignty over Papua but promise to prevent independence activists using Australia as a rallying point.

Jakarta is in no doubt that the clause is aimed at Papua, but Downer yesterday attempted to claim it was "nothing to do with asylum seekers in that sense. It's to do with not … supporting activities that are going to be … a threat to each other's countries.

"We don't want to see people, or we wouldn't want to see the Indonesian Government, supporting activities that could be a threat to our security."

Possibly, as one official joked, Canberra fears Aboriginal activists could gather in Bali to campaign for a breakaway state.

Downer also dodged on Australia's support for Indonesia's nuclear power program. "It's not about Australia establishing a nuclear power program in Indonesia - we don't have the technology," he said.

Australia is also considering developing a nuclear power capacity. More significantly, it is the most obvious source of uranium for the reactor Indonesia plans to build.

Aside from the dangers of a reactor in earthquake-prone Java, there is little to fear from the program. Jakarta is committed to nuclear non-proliferation.

If assisting Indonesia's nuclear ambitions is not envisaged, it is difficult to understand why the treaty includes a clause backing "strengthened co-operation" on the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Although the treaty endorses full co-operation in defence and law enforcement, it stops short of a formal military alliance.

The treaty provides a road map for deeper co-operation. Intelligence and counter-terrorism operations will receive the highest priority, along with border protection.

But Australia's suggestion yesterday that Jakarta was scrambling to make arrangements for Monday's signing came as a surprise to officials who booked the venue more than a week ago.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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