|Subject: The Australian: Hill treading
softly in Jakarta
The Australian March 8, 2002
Hill treading softly in Jakarta
By Don Greenlees, Jakarta correspondent
AUSTRALIA is playing down differences with Indonesia over terrorism and human rights as it moves cautiously to rebuild a once-intimate defence relationship shattered during the East Timor crisis in 1999.
On a two-day visit to Jakarta, Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill opened the door to restoring close defence ties, and expressed the hope the two countries' militaries could work "constructively and positively together".
Although agreement on major new activities was avoided in meetings with Indonesian ministers and military commanders, Senator Hill laid some important foundations for future defence co-operation.
For the first time, a group of seven junior Indonesian officers will, next year, enrol as undergraduates at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Work is also going ahead on new intelligence-sharing arrangements and the possibility of maritime surveillance exercises.
But along with the promise of a slow recovery in defence relations, Senator Hill was careful to avoid arousing Indonesian sensitivities over the conduct of human rights trials for abuses committed in East Timor and its performance in combating terrorism.
Senator Hill said he had been reassured by statements from Indonesian ministers that the Government was determined to pursue justice in relation to the murders, plunder and arson committed in East Timor by Indonesian security forces and militias as they departed.
"On the issue of human rights, our position is well known on the basis of our culture and our political philosophy and Indonesia is aware of our views on that subject," he told reporters.
"We are pleased that the administration and the leadership within this country would seem to be putting a greater emphasis on the importance of human rights."
He said Australia was looking for an "appropriate response" from the Indonesian courts over the crimes in East Timor, but would not try to impose a benchmark for what amounted to a successful outcome from the judicial process.
On terrorism, Senator Hill also avoided criticism of Indonesia's performance. He said all countries, including Indonesia, had to play a role in fighting terrorism.
But in contrast to comments he made in Singapore a week ago that Indonesia needed to do more to overcome terrorism, Senator Hill said Indonesia took the issue seriously, after the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with Australia on joint anti-terrorism activities.
Senator Hill's meetings in Jakarta included the chief minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Defence Minister, Matori Abdul Jalil, and the Armed Forces Commander, Admiral Widodo Adisucipto.
An Indonesian militia man yesterday was sentenced to six years' jail for the murder of New Zealand peacekeeper private Leonard Manning in East Timor nearly two years ago. Jacobus Bere, 37, was found guilty in the Jakarta Central District Court by a panel of three judges.
Manning, 24, became the first peacekeeper serving in East Timor to be killed in combat when he was shot dead while on border patrol near the southern town of Suai in July 2000.
Military ties with Indonesia resumed
Tim Dodd in Jakarta
The Australian Government yesterday announced its first specific moves to rebuild ties with Indonesia's military since 1999's East Timor crisis. The moves include co-operation on fighting terrorism and talks on renewing joint exercises.
Speaking in Jakarta after discussions with Indonesian ministers and military commanders, Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill, also said that for the first time, Indonesian officer cadets would be trained at the Australian Defence Force Academy next year.
The steps announced yesterday are in line with previous government statements that ties would be re-established gradually.
"Neither side is rushing to rebuild the defence relationship for the sake of rebuilding the defence relationship. We are seeking to rebuild the relationship to our mutual advantage," Senator Hill said.
He made it clear that Australia's decision to establish closer defence ties did not depend on the Indonesian military's performance in observing human rights.
"We haven't established a set of tests as such [on human rights]," he said.
"A good step, I think, is for me to be here and for senior ministers to say to me that they believe that to be important and that they are taking active steps to make progress in that regard."
Senator Hill's announcement of closer ties comes just ahead of the trial of 19 people, including two generals, accused of human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.
To be heard by Indonesia's new Human Rights Court, the cases are a crucial test for human rights observance and will be critical in any US decision to resume military-to-military links with Indonesia, which are the subject of a congressional ban.
Senator Hill said the stepped-up intelligence links with Indonesia will build on the memorandum of understanding on combating international terrorism signed during the visit of the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, to Jakarta last month.
He said that Australian intelligence agencies had begun a dialogue with their Indonesian counterparts since the signing.
"There will be instances where we can share information to our mutual advantage and agencies have already started to explore how this might work in practice," he said.
Senator Hill also had "preliminary discussions" with Indonesia about carrying out joint maritime surveillance exercises which could lead to "practical work which our two navys might be able to do together to mutual advantage sometime in the future".
And, in an expansion of non-combat training exchanges, seven Indonesian officer cadets - probably two each from the navy and the air force and three from the army - will begin a three-year course next year at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
"It's a good investment for Australia in terms of future defence leaders of this country (Indonesia) understanding our society. We would like to think it's a good investment for Indonesia as well," he said.
Australia did not completely break military-to-military ties with Indonesia after its withdrawal from East Timor in September 1999. But links were mainly confined to officer training exchanges.
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