Subject: SCMP: Trial of soldier's killer aids effort to build Indon-NZ ties

South China Morning Post May 7, 2002

Trial of soldier's killer aids effort to build ties


New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is eager to boost relations and build on improved diplomatic, trade and tourism ties during her visit to Jakarta, despite anger at home towards Indonesia's behaviour in East Timor.

Ms Clark met President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday, before talks with Vice-President Hamzah Haz, reform activists at the United Nations' Partnership for Good Governance office, and Muslim leaders.

Diplomats were able to point to smooth bilateral ties and said part of the reason for the growing friendship was Jakarta's prosecution of an Indonesian soldier for the killing of New Zealand private Leonard Manning while he was on duty with the international peacekeeping force in East Timor.

"New Zealand was satisfied with the legal procedure and overall process of that trial, although we might have liked a longer sentence than six years for the murder. The key, though, is that there was a conviction and the process was good," a diplomat said.

Indonesia also is pleased with the Manning case. 'The two countries managed to co-operate well on this. The level of co-operation was absolutely first class," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa.

However, progress on that case does not mean that New Zealand is ready to revive military ties with Indonesia's armed forces.

"Indonesia knows that it needs to do a few more things before that could be contemplated," a New Zealand diplomat said.

Along with the US and other Western governments that downgraded ties in the wake of Indonesia's brutality in East Timor in 1999, New Zealand said Indonesia must hold credible trials of the Indonesian generals behind the violence and continue with military reform pledges. Critics of the ongoing trials said legal credibility was lacking.

Ms Clark also discussed claims of human rights abuses in Aceh and Papua. She expressed hope that conflicts there could be solved through dialogue.

Indonesian diplomats said that they appreciated New Zealand's practical contributions to the problem of asylum seekers who went through Indonesian waters only to fall foul of Australia's strict rejection policy.

New Zealand took almost all of the Afghan and other refugees from the Tampa ship incident last year. It also volunteered to chair a new committee for international co-operation on the issue.

Indonesia is keen to learn more from New Zealand about what is seen as a West Pacific perspective.

"The bilateral relationship has its own momentum, but we would like to engage New Zealand regarding our desire for closer links with the Pacific," Dr Natalegawa said.

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