Indonesian President Joko Widodo says his military needed to send a ‘message’ to its Australian counterparts – amid a row over military training that’s resulted in some defence ties being cut.
It was revealed this week the Indonesian military had suspended defence co- operation with Australia – over alleged inappropriate material found at a Perth teaching base last year.
Mr Widodo said the temporary suspension of some defence operations between the two nations is appropriate.
‘This matter needs to be cleared up first,’ Mr Widodo said.
‘Even though it’s on an operational level it’s about principle.’
‘I think our relationship with Australia will remain good but on an operational level we need to deliver a message to Australia to Australia so the situation does not escalate in the future.’
The president said this incidents shows that both nations should not ‘interfere’ in its domestic affairs.
“Indonesia and Australia have agreed to respect each other, to appreciate each other and not interfere in each others’ domestic affairs, and now I have ordered the minister of defence and the military chief to address the problem.”
The suspension was triggered after an Indonesian special forces trainer, who was teaching Bahasa Indonesia language at an Australian military academy late last year, found some offensive material.
There was reference to West Papua’s independence movement and the ridiculing of Indonesia’s national ideology, Pancasila.
Defence Minister Marise Payne has told Sky News an investigation is under way.
‘Given the depth and breadth of our relationship, I think that if we work through this process methodically and we deal with the concerns that were raised, that we will be able to restore our relationship relatively easily,’ Senator Payne told Sky News.
Senator Payne said the suspension of military ties has not been total.
‘There are a number of things that are still occuring, there are some that have been suspended,’ she said.
‘For example the Chief of the Indonesian Airforce visited Australia just in December…In fact in October the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and I met with our counterparts for a two plus two meeting.’
Indonesia’s participation in an upcoming multi-national naval exercise is in doubt.
A group of Indonesian military staff college students was due to visit Australia but the trip was cancelled.
It’s understood some short courses, training exercises and talks scheduled for February will be affected by the suspension but Jakarta does not want the issue to drag on.
The Indonesia’s military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo has been quoted by the ABC saying he stopped sending his best soldiers for training in Australia out of fears they would be ‘recruited’.
Senator Payne has denied the claim.
Retired Major General Jim Molan predicts the issue will blow over soon.
‘We can be insensitive at the bottom level, not at the top level,’ he told Sky News.
‘We can be irreverent at the bottom level and the Indonesians can be overly sensitive all the way up and down their chain.’
President Widodo abruptly cancelled his visit Australia late last year after a protest in Jakarta spiralled into violence, with up to 150,000 demonstrators demanding the jailing of the city’s Christian governor for insulting Islam.
No date has been officially set for a rescheduled visit.