JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Australian army accused of mocking Indonesian state ideology Pancasila.
Indonesia Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has said he will fly to Australia to resolve a fresh spat between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and its Australian counterpart over the discovery of training materials allegedly mocking the state ideology Pancasila at a military language training facility in Perth.
The minister said, “It is important to maintain good ties between [the two] countries”, which had been strained by various issues — ranging from the influx of migrants to wiretapping allegations — in the past.
Even though Australia pledged on Wednesday that it would carry out an investigation, the TNI emphasised that the defence cooperation suspension would remain in place until the investigation was completed.
The defence cooperation between the two countries has been suspended since December, as requested by the TNI following an account made by a TNI trainer who found the allegedly offensive training materials and offensive remarks during the officer’s visit to the language training facility.
The latest spat between the uneasy neighbours, which have had a roller-coaster relationship, may also affect President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo’s plan to visit Australia. The president’s trip to Australia was delayed amid sectarian unrest in Jakarta in November.
Following the unrest, Jokowi scrambled to meet leaders of the nation’s armed forces and Islamic organisations to stress the importance of preserving Pancasila, the foundation of Indonesia’s pluralism.
Ryamizard said he would fly to Australia to meet with Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne to find solutions to the problem.
“I will talk to its defence minister. I was actually planning to go there yesterday, but to no avail because the defence minister was being treated at a hospital. Probably, by the end of this month, I will fly there,” Ryamizard said after attending a Cabinet meeting at the Bogor Palace on Wednesday.
Ryamizard said the incident took place when a TNI member was visiting Australia as part of a language exchange program, adding that Australian Defence Force members suspected of having roles in the incident had been sanctioned by Australia. Reports suggest that a language trainer from the Army Special Forces (Kopassus) found offensive material in class at an Army language training facility.
TNI spokesman Brig. Gen. Wuryanto confirmed that the TNI had officially asked Australia “to fix training and education material” to unfreeze the suspended military cooperation, which varied from the exchange of personnel and military trainers as well as joint exercises.
“If the ‘technical problems’, such as revision of training materials, have been resolved then we will resume cooperation. We haven’t set a deadline, but the faster [the problems are solved] the better,” Wuryanto told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Wuryanto said the suspension of the defence cooperation, as requested by Indonesia, had been implemented in December after the TNI sent a letter to the Australian military in the same month. “[Australia’s response to our letter] was very positive. They [Australian authorities] have said they will fix all the things that concern us,” Wuryanto said.
Wuryanto said the suspension was a normal measure taken by the TNI to evaluate its cooperation with its Australian counterpart, adding that Indonesia also suspended its defence cooperation with Australia in 2013 and that the cooperation resumed after the two countries resolved the problems through talks.
The 2013 suspension occurred following revelations that Australia had tapped the mobile phone of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In a statement on Wednesday, Payne confirmed the incident, saying that the concerns were raised by an Indonesian TNI officer about teaching materials and remarks at an Army language training facility in Australia.
The Australian chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, wrote to his Indonesian counterpart, Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, that the matter would be addressed seriously and that we would inquire into the issues raised, said Payne.
Payne further said the Australian army had looked into the serious concerns raised and the investigation into the incident was being finalised.
Indonesia has informed Australia that defence cooperation would be suspended. As a result, some interaction between the two defence organizations has been postponed until the matter is resolved. Cooperation in other areas is continuing, Payne added.