JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesia President Joko Widodo orders military chief and defence minister to resolve the case to prevent worsening diplomatic ties with Australia following an alleged insult from the latter on Pancasila.
Indonesia President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expressed on Thursday disappointment over the recent insults to the country’s symbol, Pancasila, at a learning facility organised by the Australian military, marking another bump in diplomatic ties between Jakarta and Canberra.
Jokowi could not hide Indonesia’s resentment over the incident by reminding Australia that the bilateral relationship of the two countries was made based on mutual trust and both countries must prevent themselves from interfering with each other’s domestic affairs.
He also said as a good neighbour, Australia should respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and dignity.
“I am expecting reports from the [Indonesian Military] commander [Gatot Nurmantyo] and defence minister [Ryamizard Ryacudu about the suspension of the cooperation]. We have agreed that Indonesia and Australia must respect and not interfere with each other’s domestic affairs. I think the two countries will respect the agreement,” Jokowi said.
The president said he had ordered Gatot and Ryamizard to resolve the case to prevent it from becoming a bullet that could harm Indonesia’s good relationship with the southern neighbor.
The incident took place in October when a visiting Indonesian language trainer from the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) found that the curriculum at a military training facility in Perth discredited the Indonesian Military (TNI) for its alleged human rights abuses in Timor Leste and encouraged the restive Papua to separate from Indonesia.
The trainer also found at the school a laminated paper depicting the word “Pancasila”, Indonesia’s state ideology of five principles, tweaked into “Pancagila”, which literally means “five crazy principles”, an incident that prompted the TNI to halt the language training programme and review other defence cooperations with its Australian counterpart.
Australia has had many ups and downs in its relationship with Indonesia, but arguably the lowest point in the two countries’ diplomatic ties in the past 15 years occurred when attempts by Australian intelligence to spy on Indonesia by tapping in 2013 the phones of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle were revealed.
Former Australian prime minister Tonny Abbot’s turn-back policy for boats carrying asylum seekers heading to Australia and forcing the vessels back into Indonesia waters also angered Jakarta during Yudhoyono’s administration.
Relations continued to strain after Jokowi took office and two Australian drug convicts were executed in April 2015.
The tense relationship improved later that year when Jokowi, in his friendly demeanor, took visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull along on a blusukan (impromptu visit) to Tanah Abang Market, Jakarta.
Separately, Gatot said any insult to the country’s ideology would not be tolerated or accepted, adding that he recalled the teacher after the incident.
“It hurts to learn of [the insults] in the curriculum and courses [there],” Gatot said.
Gatot said the Australian defence force chief, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, had sent a letter to him to apologise for the incident and pledged to change the curriculum and launch an investigation, adding that Australia would send its army chief of staff to Indonesia to deliver a formal apology.
“It wants to send its army chief to apologise to me and the Indonesian Army chief of staff, but I’ve asked [Australia] to hold on until the investigation is complete. I won’t go there [to solve the problem] because it was [Australia] that created the problem,” Gatot said.
Gatot’s statement contradicted an earlier statement made by Ryamizard, who said the minister would fly to Australia to meet with his counterpart Marise Payne to find solutions to the problem.
He also said Payne had apologised for the Pancasila incident.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto clarified that Indonesia had only halted the language training programme, not all military cooperation as reported by media outlets.
“The suspension of the programme is only temporary because it will resume after Australia has solved the case,” Wiranto said, adding that the Australian army member that had committed the insult had received punishment.
Minister Payne expressed regret and promised a thorough investigation of the row, which highlighted the sometimes prickly relationship between the neighbors.
Payne said an investigation into the teaching materials, found at Campbell Barracks in the west Australian city of Perth, would be concluded “imminently”.
“We have expressed regret that this occurred and that offense was taken. I think that’s appropriate when a significant counterpart raises their concerns with you,” said Payne as reported by Reuters.
Australia would present the findings of the report to Indonesia’s government and military, Payne said.
She denied allegations, reportedly made by TNI chief Gatot Nurmantyo in a lecture last year, that Australia had tried to recruit Indonesian soldiers as agents during training.