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Jakarta Lobby « Previous | |Next »
April 27, 2006

I don't see a problem with the idea of a Jakarta lobby--an overly pro-Jakarta group of internationally respected, Indonesia specialists working at the Australian National University in Canberra, senior levels of government and bureaucracy, especially the Department's of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Office of National Assessments (ONA) and the Prime Minister's department.

It need not involve ideas of conspiracy, as it is about the way the Jakarta Lobby shapes or influences policy and the complex relationship with Indonesia and the way that atrocities and systematic violence committed by the TNI, the Indonesian army, are consistently downplayed. The TNI is corrupt and deeply opposed to democratic practices.

No doubt we will see the Jakarata lobby's continuing influence in the downplaying of the TNI' s abuse of human rights in West Papua. Currently, this influence is expressed in the Howard Government buying goodwill in Jakarta by toughening its approach to asylum-seekers from West Papua reaching the Australian mainland by boat. Papuans and others who seek Australia's protection will now be transported to offshore detention centres in third countries for refugee processing outside the bounds of Australian law.

'Buying goodwill ' in this context means seeking to placate Indonesia's "nationalist" and pro-army (TNI) hardliners. They maintain the fiction that the Australian Government's policy is to ensure the secession of West Papua from Indonesia.

More West Papuan refugees can be expected and these will undermine Jakarta Lobby's view that Australia's interests in good relations with Indonesia require us to acquiesce in the serious oppression of the Melanesian people in West Papua.

As Bruce Haigh observes that the Indonesian army administers the archipelago of West Papua with an iron fist. He says that:

It does not tolerate dissent and has an economic imperative for maintaining tight control. If John Howard wants to bring about change in West Papua he must address himself to the Indonesian army, not the Indonesian Government. The politics of Indonesia are that the civilian politicians of Jakarta can't change or influence a thing in West Papua. It is a military-controlled province. The government of Indonesia exercises little power or authority outside Jakarta. Whatever authority or power it enjoys in the provinces is at the discretion and interpretation of the army.

So why not support President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's attempts to isbring the TNI under genuine civilian control by making the TNI's position in West Papua a test case.

Presumably, the 'Pacific solution' policy is that asylum-seekers intercepted by Australia, by a navy or customs vessel encountering a boat carrying asylum-seekers on the open water, will be turned back. As Peter Mares argues in The Canberra Times, the aim of the deterrence strategy is to prevent West Papuan asylum-seekers from attempting to reach Australia, and to redirect the flow to PNG. PNG already cares for some 8000 Papuans from previous flights from TNI oppression and persecution across the border.

What we have then is Australia's relationship with Indonesia being based on a denial of the past persecution, the present repression, and state sanctioned terrorism against a people.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

Ironically the Indonesian Executive needs our moral support in breaking the back of the TNI and BIN; placing them fully under civilian control. Suharto mixed the military with the political so heavily that they did everything from civil order to budgeting as well as sit in parliament.

Indonesia has been doing well in flushing many of the ills of Suharto dictatorship from their system and maintaining a democratic market economy, but it is a huge task. Personally, I dont think they can do it without our complete support and commitment to ensure that they can focus domestically and not have to worry about foreign disruptions etc.

Especially negative and distractive passions such as nationalism rearing their head in both countries. I am convinced that Australian prosperity will come through Indonesia and vice versa.

Cameron,
I thought that Jakarta had promised to address West Papua's political and economic problems with the granting of special autonomy in 2002.

Do you know what happened? Presumably the promise was not kept as the province has been divided.

Australia could advocate special autonomy for West Papua. Or it could to refuse to deal with the TNI until it is clearly under civilian authority to facilitate the development of a democratic political culture in Indonesia.

Damien Kingsbury rightly argues that Australia's relationship to the TNI is contradictory. On the one hand:

Australia's recognition of the asylum claims ....officially confirms the asylum seekers' claims of continuing human rights abuses in the territory-- a long record that includes the 2001 murder by the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus, of Papuan leader Theys Eluay.

On the other hand, Australia formally renewed training links with Kopassus and re-established military links with Indonesia thereby providing support for a corrupt and brutal military.

Hugh White poses the question well:

So where do we go on West Papua? There must be better options for Australia than a stale choice between the Government's unsustainably amoral pragmatism, and the high-principled but feckless adventurism of the independence lobby.

His answer is that Australia should support the effective implementation of the special autonomy package that has been on the table in Jakarta since 2001. And, 'we then need to ask what Australia can do to promote special autonomy.' He says:
Most likely the best thing Australia can do is to neutralise the false arguments of autonomy's opponents in Jakarta.We need to make clear that Australia does not and will not support independence for West Papua. To do that, the Government has to start arguing forcefully and effectively in favour of special autonomy against those here in Australia who advocate an independence posture. And it needs to argue on the basis of principle, not pragmatism.

There's a foreign policy pathway.

The political reality is that the formidable powers of the Jakarta based business and security sectors are interested in maintaining the status quo, and they are easily able to mobilize nationalist rhetoric to cast any concessions to ethnic Papuans as defeats to secessionists bent on dissolving the unitary state.

Brigham Golden says that in the end, being tough on ethnic Papuans and continuing the conflict there as a winnable war against separatists offers more political capital to an Administration in Jakarta than does resolving conflict by providing for the needs of its citizens there.

This is unfortunate because, as Golden says, the Melanesian West Papuans are the Indonesian Republic's :

most destitute and marginal people, and yet there is disturbingly little concern for their plight among the general population. In this sense, Papuan suspicions that they are not welcome members of Indonesia's 'national family' (keluarga negara) are shared by most Indonesians as well. This cycle of discrimination and alienation is the true root of Papua's problems in Indonesia--and yet it remains almost completely unacknowledged.

Do you know what happened? Presumably the promise was not kept as the province has been divided.

I think the plans for limited autonomy for Papua were thwarted when Megawati came to power. Her
party, the PDI, are not at all keen on any concessions to the Papuans.

Papuan suspicions that they are not welcome members of Indonesia's 'national family' (keluarga negara) are shared by most Indonesians as well.

I remember during the "Indonesian Idol" show last year there was a Papuan contestant who made it to the last three I think, he was very good. Anyway the story is just about every time he went before the judges one of them had to say something about the colour of his skin, - on national television, she (the judge) kept doing it so I guess no one pulled her up on it. Never underestimate how racist some Indonesians are.

Patung,

I do remember reading that the plans for limited autonomy for Papua were thwarted when Megawati came to power. It suprised me that her
party, the PDI, was not at all keen on any concessions to the Papuans. It's nationalism was about a unitary centralized state rather than a federal one.

Federalism does not seem to be very popular in Jakarta.