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Jakarta Post

Indonesia to reject Abbott'€™s boat people plan

The Jakarta Post
Jakarta   ●   Thu, September 12, 2013

Indonesia will reject Australian Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott'€™s plan to disburse million of dollars to Indonesian villagers for information about people smugglers as part of efforts to halt the flow of asylum seekers to Australia, says Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The plan, which the Indonesian government previously refused to comment on as it had only been voiced by Abbott during his campaign, will likely become a state policy as he has won the election.

Marty said on Wednesday that Indonesia would not accept such policy as it was not in line with the spirit of partnership between the two countries.

'€œWe will have a discussion with Abbott prior to the APEC Summit in October. We will reject his policy on asylum seekers and any other policy that harms the spirit of partnership,'€ he said during a meeting with the House of Representatives'€™ Commission I overseeing foreign affairs and defense.

During his campaign, Abbott revealed his plan for more regional action to stop people smuggling, pledging A$420 million (US$ 379 million) for policy measures that included paying Indonesian villagers for information about smugglers and buying unseaworthy boats, according to Australian media.

Abbott said roughly $20 million would be allocated to '€œvillage watch'€ activities, according to the ABC.Marty confirmed that Abbott would make his first state visit to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ahead of the APEC Summit. '€œDiscussing Abbott'€™s controversial plan on asylum seekers will be one of main agenda'€™s during the visit,'€ Marty added.

Abbott'€™s proposal has sparked criticism from politicians and experts in the country. Tantowi Yahya, a member of House Commission I, said on Wednesday that the plan would potentially harm bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia.

'€œOur bilateral relations with Australia were good during Kevin Rudd'€™s leadership, but they may not be during Abbott'€™s leadership,'€ he said, noting that the Foreign Ministry had to take a firm stance in dealing with the issue.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law professor from the University of Indonesia, said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post that he despised the plan, calling it '€œhumiliating'€ as it made Indonesian fishermen '€œlook like mercenaries who do dirty jobs.

'€Asylum seekers was a darling issue during the recent Australian election.

According to data from Australia'€™s Department of Immigration, as cited by BBC, the number of irregular maritime arrivals to that country has been on the rise. Last year, there were 278 boats carrying 17,202 passengers to the country, a sharp increase from 134 boats carrying 6,535 passengers in 2010. Meanwhile, as of July 16 this year, there were 218 boats carrying 15,182 passengers, already 88 percent of total irregular arrivals last year. (koi)