Subject: JP: House ratifies Lombok treaty

November 28, 2007

House ratifies Lombok treaty

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives has ratified a security treaty with Australia that includes a formal acknowledgement of Indonesia's sovereignty over Australia.

During their plenary meeting Tuesday, all parties at the House of Representatives agreed to ratify the treaty, over a year after Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and his then Australian counterpart Alexander Downer signed it in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

Head of House of Representatives' Commission I on security, defense and international affairs Theo L Sambuaga, who presented the treaty before the plenary session, confirmed after the meeting that there had been no objections to the treaty, and added that it needed only the President's signature the treaty to take effect as a law.

The Australian Parliament ratified the treaty some weeks ago.

"We all feel relief because Australia has formally acknowledged our territorial integration, including on Papua. The treaty also requires Australia to prohibit its territory from being used by separatist movements against us. It means that we have less pressure from separatism," Theo of the Golkar Party told The Jakarta Post.

That pact, among other, specifies that "The Parties shall not in any manner support or participate in activities by any person or entity which constitutes a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other party, including by those who seek to use its territory for encouraging or committing such activities, including separatism, in the territory of the other party."

The Australian government through its embassy in Jakarta also welcomed the news of the ratification.

"The Australian embassy warmly welcomed news of the House of Representatives' ratification of the Lombok Treaty," embassy spokesman John Williams said in a text message.

Papua has been an ongoing source of tension between the two countries, with Jakarta frequently accusing Australia of supporting a separatist movement and Canberra expressing concerns about allegations of human rights violations in the province.

The two countries signed their first bilateral Agreement on Maintaining Security in 1995, with both nations pledging to meet regularly on defense issues.

However, an angry Jakarta rescinded the treaty in 1999 following Australian military involvement in the former province of East Timor (now Timor Leste) during and after its referendum for independence.

The Lombok agreement has been touted since the beginning of last year but many observers believed it would be left in limbo after Canberra granted provisional refugee status to Papuan asylum seekers in April, causing Jakarta to call its ambassador home as a protest.

Besides formal recognition of Indonesia's territorial integrity, the treaty will also strengthen security ties, with stronger anti-terrorism cooperation and joint naval border patrols.

In addition, the treaty allows greater cooperation on civilian nuclear research and could lead to Australian sales of uranium to Indonesia.

But rights groups have said that the security treaty is a "dirty deal" which casts Australia as a de facto Indonesian ally in the conflict in Papua.


The Australian Financial Review

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jakarta Observed

Indonesians Welcome Howard's Defeat

by Angus Grigg

It was a day Indonesia's columnists had clearly been looking forward to, and they were brutal. The defeat of John Howard was a cause for celebration and an opportunity to vent their anger.

There were no grey areas and certainly no generous send-offs. The local press labelled Howard everything from a white "imperialist" to a "condescending big brother". They said he was nothing more than a puppet of the United States and a leader with an inflated sense of self-importance.

Among Jakarta's opinion makers there was also universal agreement that prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd would improve relations and set things right after 11 1/2 years of the Howard government.

The strength of anti-Howard feeling in Indonesia, which runs from taxi drivers to the political elite, is surprising. Howard did, after all, make more trips to Indonesia than any other Australian leader and probably handed over more aid money than all his predecessors combined.

But he never cracked the "Indonesian street" and the elite always saw him as more focused on Britain and the United States than the region. Despite this, the diplomatic crowd will tell you that Howard leaves office at a time when the relationship has never been stronger.

They will argue that business and government links are far deeper than at any previous time and the relationship is no longer reliant on the personal rapport between prime minister and president as it was in the days of Paul Keating and Soeharto.

The diplomats will also talk about the sheer size of Australia's embassy in Jakarta. It is not only Australia's largest foreign mission, but the largest embassy in Jakarta, which they say signals the depth of Australia's involvement.

They will also point to the inevitable blow-ups over the death penalty, East Timor and West Papua and say these days bridges are mended much more quickly.

It begs the question as to why Howard was so despised.

It seems that he never recovered from comments early in his tenure about pulling back from Keating's focus on Asia.

The comments were, of course, like most foreign policy blustering, designed for the domestic audience, but it did damage in Indonesia and despite what came after, Howard was always considered insincere.

Even when he gave a billion dollars after the Indian Ocean tsunami there was a feeling in Indonesia that it was not a selfless act and that he and Australia were somewhat self-congratulatory.

As Jakarta Post columnist Meidyatama Suryodiningrat put it, Howard did the right thing, like any Good Samaritan would do, in Indonesia's time of need.

"But few found his realism in dealing with Asia and the Pacific particularly warm," he said.

"Indonesia's southern neighbour will now discard its imperialist-like tone to again take its proper place as a partner rather than a condescending big brother."

Indonesia's former ambassador to Australia, Sabam Siagian, was equally condemning. "Howard simply cannot fathom how his meek kowtowing to Washington has significantly reduced the efficacy of Australia's foreign policy in Asia," he said.

"Australia's political body language sends off signals that are viewed as an extension of American arrogance and insensitivity."

Siagian said Rudd would resurrect Keating's policy of broad engagement with Asia.

That typifies the feelings in Jakarta that things will change under Rudd, but it's likely to be a more symbolic than practical change.

Damien Kingsbury, a senior lecturer at Deakin University, says Rudd will handle the Indonesian relationship with a lot more sensitivity than Howard ever did.

"There will always be issues, it's just a matter of how they are handled," he says. "I get a sense that Rudd cares about Australia's international relations in Asia, but he also has a fair handle on all the dilemmas faced in Indonesia."

This understanding of Asia has come through in the coverage of Rudd's victory.

Most articles in Indonesia mentioned Rudd's credentials as a former diplomat with experience in China, that he speaks fluent Mandarin and also that his son-in-law is ethnic Chinese.

This clearly demonstrates his connection with Asia, even though China and Indonesia have not always been the best of friends.

It should also be pointed out that while Rudd inherits a very strong government-to-government relationship, there are still plenty of challenges. Indonesian commentators are already pointing out that the Labor Party has always paid more attention to human rights than the conservatives.

This is a very sensitive area and inevitably leads to West Papua and long-held suspicions that Australia favours independence for the troubled province.

That has never been the case, but there is a very strong West Papua lobby in Australia, which ran powerful television ads during the election campaign, and would certainly have some support on Labor's left.

Just like Howard before him, Rudd will have to knock down these fears, and he will get an opportunity to do this at next month's climate change conference in Bali, where he will also have a bilateral meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Rudd will certainly get a warm welcome and as a result he should recognise that Howard was not the foreign policy disaster his critics claim.

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