Subject: Indonesian Ambassador To Australia Says Ties At Highest Level

Radio Australia

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Indonesian Ambassador To Australia Says Ties At Highest Level

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will make his second state visit to Australia next week. Issues for discussion are likely to include the high-level of Australia's terrorism alert for Indonesia and the region-wide question of people-smuggling. But Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia says those issues are not the main reason for the visit, which will also include Indonesia's Foreign and Trade ministers and possibly others. Ambassador Primo Alui Joelianto says the goal is to reinforce ties which he describes as being at the highest level. But the Ambassador also noted that even the best neighbours can have differences.

Presenter: Linda Mottram

Speakers: Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia Primo Alui Joelianto

JOELIANTO: I have to admit I think some quarters in Indonesia still remember the past, I think you know very well that some Indonesian still until now still consider Australia as the deputy sheriff of the United States, and made some mistakes in East Timor. But I believe it's always some quarters in our society. On the other hand I think we also see that some Australians still have the old thinking of Indonesia, that Indonesia is a big Muslim country full of terrorists, do not respect human rights. There are still some quarters in Australia. And if you see the � you'll see that only 49 per cent of Australians see Indonesia as a significant role in the world issues.

MOTTRAM: It is interesting isn't it, because Indonesia's economic status, its progress as a democracy, a very dynamic democracy, there's just an extraordinary transformation. Why do you think it's taking quite some time for both Indonesians and Australians to grasp their status if you like?

JOELIANTO: If we see the history of our relations always up and down, but then we admit that we mutually need each other. It started when there was a flow of refugees in 2001-02, and then in 2004 we Indonesia admitted that we needed Australia, because in 2004, especially in December there was tsunami, and it was the first time since East Timor case that Australian troops landed on our soil, because we needed then we understand your troops did a fairly good job to assist us. I think since then we, both countries think that we need each other, and maybe you're also aware that since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took office he already met nine times, so next week it'll be ten times. So this reflects our closeness of our relations.

MOTTRAM: In the context of that closeness as you said yourself there are difficulties, neighbours come up against each other. One of them is the people smuggling issue still, and we saw that recently with the Oceanic Viking and so forth. The Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans recently said look we didn't handle that as well as we should have. Do you welcome that sort of honest appraisal?

JOELIANTO: Everybody has admitted that this is not an easy issue, and after all this is not a bilateral problem, it's a regional problem. We have to rely also on the country of origin. So long as you cannot resolve the problem in the country of origin, you cannot stop the problem. Of course it will be touched by the two leaders, but I don't expect it will be the main topic of our discussions, because the purpose of the President's visit to Australia is again cementing further our relations.

MOTTRAM: But again there was another issue you raised, that question of terrorism, and there's this issue of the travel warning. How does that make Indonesians feel?

JOELIANTO: We understand that a government should protect their citizens, that is the job of every government. What we don't understand is to put Indonesia at the same level as, because we are on the fourth level, so we are on the same level as Pakistan, so this is something that we don't understand. So we hope that the Australian government can reconsider again, at least not lift all the advisory, at least to reduce the level, so it reflects the real situation in Indonesia, because Indonesia from time to time becoming more and more safer.

MOTTRAM: There are some very big economic issues facing Indonesia although your country has survived the global financial crisis and the global recession very, very well. Nonetheless the forces against reform in your country are clearly very strong, and we've seen that in the parliament in the past day with the debate over the bank rescue. Do you think those forces opposing reform have very much strength?

JOELIANTO: I think this is as a result of our commitment to embark on democracy, so you cannot avoid the aggressiveness of particular parties. But I believe that our commitment is very strong to maintain as a democratic country. So I think it will be resolved peacefully.

MOTTRAM: Do you think ministers like Sri Mulyani will survive, because some were calling for her to and others, the vice president?

JOELIANTO: Something that's very difficult for me to answer because what's happening now is actually the politicization of the case of sensitive bank.

MOTTRAM: Does it make it difficult to conduct this sort of a visit in that climate back home?

JOELIANTO: After all the President is doing normally his activities as a president, he opens seminar, he opens some ceremony, so I don't see any big influence on the President.

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