INDONESIAN President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is determined to restore his country’s relationship with Australia.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tells: “I’m hurt but committed to making the relationship strong again.” Dr Yudhoyono’s comments are the most positive statement he has made about the relationship since it emerged last month that in 2009 Australian agencies spied on Indonesian targets, including the President, his wife and senior advisers.
And they were prompted by reports in The Weekend Australian on Saturday that revealed the reason agencies had tapped the phone of Dr Yudhoyono’s wife, Kristiani Herawati.
Since the ABC and The Guardian Australia published intelligence documents last month, stolen by US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and revealing Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate spying on Indonesia, there has been a crisis in the relationship.
In response, Dr Yudhoyono and his government demanded a full explanation and suspended many areas of government-to-government co-operation, including help in tackling people-smuggling.
The decision to monitor the first lady, known in Indonesia as Ibu Ani, has been the most controversial part of the spy scandal.
On Saturday, The Weekend Australian revealed that DSD, which has since been renamed the Australian Signals Directorate, targeted her because she had become the President’s most important adviser, was assuming an important role in government decisions and was playing a broader role in Indonesian politics.
There was also speculation she could become a presidential candidate herself as part of a plan to create a family dynasty.
A secret cable written by the US embassy in Jakarta in late 2007 said: “Indonesia’s first lady had expanded her influence with the palace and emerged as the President’s undisputed top adviser.”
The Australian agencies were also interested in the linkages between the Indonesian government and important Islamic movements within Indonesia at a time when three Australians had been killed in the twin hotel bombings in Jakarta in July 2009 and notorious bomber Noordin Mohammad Top was still on the run.
The diplomatic cables and other sources cited in The Weekend Australian did not disclose any improper or worrying actions by Indonesia’s first lady.
Dr Yudhoyono read The Weekend Australian’s coverage on Saturday in Tokyo, where he was at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian nations.
The Indonesian ambassador to the US, Dino Djalal, who was also a target of the DSD phone intercepts in 2009 and is a close confidant of the President, was also in Tokyo for the meeting.
Dr Yudhoyono instructed Dr Djalal to ring me to convey the President’s personal reaction to the stories. Dr Djalal checked with Dr Yudhoyono that these remarks could be publicly attributed to the President. The President said he found elements of The Weekend Australian’s coverage showed balance and that there were some positive aspects of the coverage.
Dr Yudhoyono also pointed out that it was he, as President in 2005, who first moved to elevate the Indonesia-Australia relationship to the higher plane it has existed on in recent years. Since that time, he said, he had worked consistently to improve the relationship between the two countries.
He said the dispute over the spying story had hurt him personally. The President said he was determined to repair the relationship and would work towards a solution. This needs to happen through the steps the two nations had agreed on. It also needed to happen in a way that satisfied his domestic needs.
Dr Yudhoyono, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in the presidential elections in July, said he was a committed democrat and was determined to leave a positive, democratic legacy for Indonesia.
The President’s personal intervention, in the wake of The Weekend Australian’s reports, is extremely unusual and indicates that he is continuing to give high-level and sustained attention to the relationship.
It is also significant that he used his ambassador to the US to convey his message to The Australian. Dr Djalal was the presidential spokesman for six years until 2010, when he became ambassador in Washington.
He has remained extremely close to the President and is returning to Jakarta full-time in January to run for the presidential nomination in the President’s Democratic Party. The President has not endorsed a candidate in that party primary.
The positive tone of his remarks also indicates that Dr Yudhoyono, within the constraints of Indonesian politics, remains a committed friend of Australia, and sees the intimate relationship as an important part of his legacy.
Tony Abbott has frequently described Dr Yudhoyono as a “great president of Indonesia” and “a great friend of Australia”.
The next step in the repair of the relationship will come when the Abbott government sends to Jakarta this week a proposed text for the “joint understanding” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, agreed to negotiate.
The Indonesians proposed a six-step process to recover the relationship, starting with a meeting of the foreign ministers, who would then prepare a report for the two leaders.
The third step involves drafting a joint understanding likely to reprise the mutual commitments the nations made to each other under the Lombok Treaty on mutual security.
It will also contain agreements on co-operation on intelligence and cyber-security matters, and a commitment that the two nations will not use their resources to harm each other.
After this has been finalised, the next steps involve the two leaders formally agreeing to it and probably signing it.
Then relations can be fully normalised again.
The Australian, December 16, 2013 – (socio-politica.com)