18 September 2003

Indonesia warns against intervention without PNG Govt approval

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Another close neighbour is taking a very interested look at what's happening between Australia and Papua New Guinea, and that nation is Indonesia.

Today, one of the most senior and influential politicians in Indonesia, Amien Rais, the Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament, said Australia should not send any of its police to Papua New Guinea without the express permission of PNG's government.

Doctor Rais, who's in Canberra speaking to senior government ministers, also spoke to our reporter, Nick Mckenzie.

AMIEN RAIS: Australia is a very big country, so it has a role in this Asia Pacific area, everybody will understand, but of course Australia has still to respect the sovereignty, the independence of other countries.

NICK MCKENZIE: Well keeping with that, our Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has expressed the view that sovereignty is not absolute. That is, Australian intervention into a sovereign nation is permissible if, for instance, there's a breakdown of law and order in that nation. Do you agree with that view?

AMIEN RAIS: No. I mean, yes if the break of law and order of a special country will spill over to the neighbouring countries and will destabilise the whole region, but no if the break of law and order is limited to the country, and then if the country is able to overcome its own problem, we'd better support the country, but not by sending soldiers or military forces, but by giving moral, diplomatic and political support. This is even wiser because to me, if a country sends a military force or police force to another country, it will create more problems.

NICK MCKENZIE: Well it's exactly what Australia's trying to do in Papua New Guinea. It's suggested sending some of its own police force, some of the AFP (Australian Federal Police) to Papua New Guinea, and that's a suggestion that Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare has rejected. So is Australia overstepping its mark in that regard?

AMIEN RAIS: Yeah, as a neighbouring country, as an Indonesian citizen, as one of Indonesian leaders, I did disagree with this policy, because if the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, or for that matter leaders of that country did not invite the interference or intervention of Australia, I think Australia better space away. This is my honest opinion.

Reviving the Howard doctrine by trying to force PNG to accept Australian 'advisers' or face reduced aid is just insane. The reasons advanced by the government are ludicrous.

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