Subject: New Zealand wants military ties with Indon restored: NZ Ambassador

The Jakarta Post May 4, 2002

NZ wants military ties with RI restored, says Elder

Claire Harvey, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Normalization of military ties and mutual efforts to fight people-smuggling look set to highlight the visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark here next week.

New Zealand Ambassador Chris Elder said on Friday that Clark would also urge President Megawati Soekarnoputri to attend East Timor's upcoming independence celebrations, despite the fierce opposition of legislators.

"It would be a very positive thing if President Megawati were to travel to East Timor for the celebrations," Elder told The Jakarta Post. "It's a matter for her decision absolutely but it would signal a reconciliation which I think would be very welcome."

Friendlier relations between New Zealand and Indonesia were blossoming as Jakarta embraced democracy and brought alleged perpetrators of human rights abuse to justice, Elder said.

Security links were cut in 1999 when pro-Jakarta militias went on a killing spree across East Timor after a UN-administered referendum resulted in an overwhelming support for independence.

"Our position (on military ties) is pretty well known in Indonesia. Ties were suspended after the violence in East Timor in the wake of the referendum and we are looking to see some evidence that the people who were responsible are brought to justice," Elder said.

Elder said New Zealand welcomed as "positive steps" the current human rights trials of Indonesian Military (TNI) and police officers allegedly involved in the East Timor mayhem, and Megawati's meeting with East Timor president-elect Xanana Gusmao in Jakarta on Thursday.

"East Timor was an irritant in our relationship but also the moves towards greater democratization in Indonesia generally are making the relationship easier across the board," he said.

"I think countries like New Zealand -- which have been prepared to be critical where they judged it necessary -- also have a responsibility to be supportive and commendatory when they see things in their judgment improving," he said.

"You can't just keep criticizing without offering praise where it is due."

Refugees and trade relations will also top the agenda when Clark meets Megawati and Vice President Hamzah Haz on Monday. The visiting prime minister will lay a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery, before calling on People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung, who is presently on trial for graft.

New Zealand has already agreed to take more refugees from Indonesia to help ease the flow of boat people who set out in leaky boats bound for Australia each year.

Up to 200 refugees will from June be admitted to New Zealand from Indonesia. At present, most of New Zealand's annual refugee intake of 750 come from more distant areas such as the Balkans and the Indian subcontinent.

"It's a recognition of the fact that Indonesia also has a refugee problem; Indonesia didn't ask these people to come here and it's not fair to tell Indonesia that they have got to sort the problem out. We have to try and help."

Clark will also witness the signing of an agreement between New Zealand and the UN on an aid program to assist primary school education, part of the NZ$40 million which Wellington will spend on Indonesian aid over the next five years.

Tensions between the two countries reached a high point in July 2000 when New Zealand peacekeeper Leonard Manning was murdered by pro-Jakarta militiamen while on patrol near the West Timor border.

Clark last year expressed her disappointment with the lenience of the six-year sentence handed down to one of Manning's killers. Another two suspected killers were acquitted earlier this year.

"We were pretty satisfied with the way those trials were conducted," Elder said. "We didn't think the sentence was strong enough and we are pleased the prosecution are appealing, and we are also pleased the prosecution is appealing against the acquittal of the other two men."


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