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Jakarta Post

Indonesia-Australia relations hit fresh snag

  • Novan Iman Santosa and Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 9, 2017   /  05:34 am
Indonesia-Australia relations hit fresh snag Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, confers with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi after their meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Barely recovering from the row that led to the suspension of military cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, a fresh problem emerged over the weekend that could put the relationship between the two neighbors to another test.

An insensitive prank that happened on Friday at the Indonesian Consulate General (KJRI) in Melbourne has drawn the ire of the Indonesian government, which soon called for the Australian government to launch an investigation into the incident.

On Friday, a Caucasian suspect, according to the ministry spokesman, broke into the Indonesian mission by scaling a wall “more than 2.5 meters high” from an adjoining apartment building complex and hoisted a Papuan Morning Star flag on the premises, which is a symbol of the Papuan independence movement,

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi strongly urged the Australian government to respond to the intrusion, calling it a “criminal act that cannot be tolerated”.

“The Australian authorities must hastily conclude the investigation and legally process the perpetrator who trespassed the KJRI in Melbourne,” she said in a statement on Saturday.

The incident was caught on camera by an individual who stood outside the gate of the Indonesian office building. The action was carried out at 12:52 p.m. local time, when most Indonesian staffers were away for Friday prayers.

The Papuan independence movement recently hit an impasse after its efforts to seek legitimacy through the Melanesian Spearhead Group floundered.

The separatist movement, however, has found support among groups of Australians.

Retno underscored Australia’s responsibility to protect the premises of Indonesia’s consulate in accordance with the 1961 UN Convention on diplomatic relations.

Article 22 paragraph 2 of the 1961 Vienna Convention, as it is commonly known, states that “the receiving state is under special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the consulate against intrusion or damage and to prevent disturbance of the peace or impairment of its dignity”.

Retno also contacted her Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, on Saturday, to make sure Australia would carry out an investigation and punish the perpetrator.

Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema was also instructed by the minister to maintain communications with the government and the Australian authorities to ensure the protection of all of Indonesia’s consulates and government staffers in the country.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s head of the Melbourne consulate, Dewi Wahab, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the Australian Federal Police had stepped up their protection over the KJRI premises and are currently investigating potential perpetrators.

“We are still waiting for updates from them,” Dewi said.

The incident happened on the back of a fresh spat between the two neighbors, precipitated by the discovery of offensive teaching material at an Australian military academy which, among other things, mocked Indonesia’s state ideology, Pancasila, and suggested support for Papuan independence.

As a result, Indonesia suspended its defense cooperation with Australia as the latter’s top brass scrambled to rectify the problem.

Tensions further rose after Australian media mocked Indonesian Military commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo for publicly shaming the Australian military over the incident, despite revelations that the matter had already been dealt with discreetly.

Several Australian media outlets even called out Gatot as acting out to follow his ambition to run in the 2019 Presidential election, a speculation rebuffed by both Gatot and President Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo.

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