TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER

admin's picture

EMBASSY OF INDONESIA Canberra, Australia

June 26, 2001

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP
JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH
HIS EXCELLENCY K.H. ABDURRAHMAN WAHID
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the President and I are delighted to welcome you to this joint press conference. Can I say how positive the meeting was this morning between the President and myself and then, subsequently, between the President and his senior ministers and myself and senior members of the Australian Government.

Amongst a number of things that we have agreed to is, of course, to have regular exchanges of visits between the President of Indonesia and the Prime Minister of Australia. This is, as everyone knows, the first visit to Australia’s national capital by an Indonesian President for 29 years. That alone marks it as a highly significant occasion, a very important one.

Both of us are very strongly of a view that the strains over East Timor, understandable though they were in the context of those events, should in the interests of a broader and deeper relationship be put behind us as we move on. And I’m delighted to say that the visit by the President symbolises that and also gives a great deal of practical substance to the importance of the relationship.

There was a memorandum of understanding signed between our two foreign ministers regarding tourism and also a marine agreement’s been reached to establish a marine agreement or marine working party rather. We talked about the economic relationship. The President brought me up to date on changes within Indonesia. In their discussions the foreign ministers noted that ad hoc tribunals have been established in relation to war crimes both before and after the 1999 ballot in East Timor.

I repeated Australia’s support for and recognition of and advocacy of Indonesia’s and Jakarta’s territorial integrity. I welcomed the proposals for special autonomy, especially in relation to Aceh and Irian Jaya. We see the proposed autonomy package for Irian Jaya as a unique opportunity to deal with those particular difficulties. But those remarks were made against the background of our acknowledgment of Jakarta’s sovereignty and our respect for and our understanding of the importance of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia.

There was, may I say, a very far-sighted proposal raised by the President for a West Pacific forum, including Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, New Zealand, perhaps also Brunei. And in their discussions the foreign ministers agreed that as a start there may well be a dialogue involving the foreign ministers of those countries. May I say on behalf of Australia that we welcome the President’s putting forward of this proposal and we believe it will make a very positive contribution to an understanding between, a better understanding between countries in this part of the world.

We, in our discussions, covered aid matters. We noted the continued strength of the education investment in the bilateral relationship. There are, of course, more Indonesians in Australia studying than in any other country and that’s been the case for a long time and we want that to continue and we want that to grow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to put on record, as I have earlier, my very great respect for the great undertaking that is involved in Indonesia embracing a different form of government, the transition to democracy is difficult and it’s been carried out with great courage by the Indonesian people and by the President himself. And on a personal note, although I’ve had the opportunity of meeting you, Mr President, in other countries, this is the first opportunity I’ve had of meeting you in my own country and I’m very happy for that. I am so delighted that you are here and I’m so delighted that it has given all of us an opportunity to remark upon the ongoing importance of our relationship and the strength that we hope it regathers for the future. Thank you, Mr President.

PRESIDENT WAHID:

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen. I come here mainly in the symbolic way, like was written by one of the journalists in Australia today. But symbolic or not, it is really important because of many things. I won’t repeat all those things because you know already but with this kind of visit and the co-operation between Indonesia and Australia will be closer and I hope that, you know the, that we both can help the East Timorese to regain their position in the international community because it lies in the vicinity of Australia. And also we have, you see, committed many things there, in human as well as they also because of us and also inflicted many [inaudible] among us. So we have to repair all those things and it’s not easy concerning the idea of the militias and so forth and in due time the foreign ministers of both countries will explain that to you.

JOURNALIST:

My name is Ian McPhedran from News Limited, Mr President, my question is to you. Do you believe that any of the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 and beforehand will ever be brought to justice?

PRESIDENT WAHID:

They have to be brought to justice and the law enforcement will take place in Indonesia. But of course it needs time because everything in Indonesia is slow. You see, so many obstacles that we have to face and, you see, improvements also in the law.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Prime Minister, you just pledged the support to Indonesian territorial integrity but in the same time you demand to have those militiamen in East Timor prosecuted. To me this is quite confusing because are you actually saying that if we don’t, if we’re not able to prosecute those in the short future are you going to withdraw your support for Indonesian territorial integrity?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we take a positive view of the commitment made by Indonesia to the establishment of tribunals to deal with allegations concerning conduct both before and after the 1999 ballot. Your question is premised on a failure of that process. We have a more positive view about the outcome of that process. We do wish to see those tribunals operate, we are pleased to note the commitment in relation to investigations of matters both before and after the ballot and I think it is altogether to strike too negative a note about the outcome of those investigations to answer the question in the way that you invite me to do.

JOURNALIST:

Craig Skehan, Sydney Morning Herald. Just to follow up on a very specific aspect of those last couple of questions. This is to President Wahid. Will you rescind your decree which effectively said there would be no prosecutions in relation to events before the self-determination vote in East Timor in August 1999? Will that decree be rescinded and what would your reaction be if Australia and other international countries were to support an international war crimes tribunal?

PRESIDENT WAHID:

There shall be law enforcement in this matter and prosecution as well. But you see we need time to do that.

JOURNALIST:

I am from International Radio Indonesia. I have three questions here. One is for you recognise of the integration of East Timor to Indonesia, have you already [inaudible] from your Parliament, is my question, because up to now the law in Indonesia also still not [inaudible] out about the integration of East Timor with Indonesia? And the next question is about the refugees. The [inaudible] question about the refugees in west part are saying that before we came here they asked that the Prime Minister and President of Indonesia should not talk about the refugees.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have talked about the refugees.

JOURNALIST:

So the question really asks they need their right 21%. It’s about [inaudible] is one of their demands. I’d like to ask also about the Timor Gap. So what’s your comment? Thanks.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well in relation to the Timor Gap negotiations they are still going on and we hope that they will be satisfactorily resolved very soon. It’s very important to Australia and it’s very important to the people of East Timor. We are having discussions. There are further discussions to take place soon and we hope that that will be resolved.

We did discuss refugees and we did agree to a request from Indonesia that we raise with international authorities, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the challenges that Indonesia faces in relation to the resettlement of the refugees. We clearly want that done in a way that is fair and decent to the refugees concerned and that continues to be our position. Some of them are of course concerned about a return, and some are concerned still about the activity of militias in West Timor, and they are matters that were discussed this morning in the exchanges between the two sides on that issue.

I’m not sure that I fully understood the purport of the first question. What we’re seeking to do, of course, in East Timor is to establish its own, in co-operation with the United Nations, authority, it’s own discreet and separate legal regime. And when that occurs, then I would imagine that proper international recognition would follow in due course. Might I mention that in the grouping of countries in the West Pacific dialogue naturally we would seek to see East Timor included in that, as well, as a mark of our acceptance of the emerging country.

JOURNALIST:

Robert Garran from The Australian newspaper. A question for you Mr President. Mr Howard’s Government in its Defence White Paper last year talked about the need for a new security agreement with Indonesia. Do you agree that there’s the need for some form of new security dialogue between the two countries? And if so, is the time yet ready to begin thinking about how that could be achieved?

PRESIDENT WAHID:

Well, I think the Prime Minister was right in saying that. The Australian Government has issued a reformulation of that thing. The geopolitical and geomilitary situation now is changed very much from the past so that we have the need to reformulate those things.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Prime Minister, strange though it may seem, many Indonesians still hold you responsible for the independence of East Timor. Would you be able to declare here that you never in your letter to President Habibie, at that time, urged him to give independence to East Timor?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’m not going to go back over interpretations of history. People are aware of what occurred and we all, in the context of the relationship of our two countries, are aware that strains were inevitable and unavoidable and we would be unrealistic to pretend otherwise. The focus of today and the future is the ongoing bilateral relationship, and without in any way resiling from what has occurred in the past, which I don’t, what I do do is to say that today is a very important moment in the history of our two countries and that is to me is far more important than retrospectively, how shall I put it, re-examinations of meanings and syntax and so forth. We deal in outcomes, we have an outcome where an important relationship between our two countries through the generous symbolism of President Wahid is restored. And I welcome that and that is very important to our two countries and our two societies.

[One more question and then President Wahid has to see the Leader of the Opposition.]

JOURNALIST:

President Wahid, Belinda Goldsmith from Reuters. I’d like to ask you why you’ve changed the head of the IBRA and what do you expect from that change? And will this stake sale in BCA proceed as scheduled under the new head?

PRESIDENT WAHID:

Well if I may say, there are two kinds of people. Those who are apt to become staff and those who are apt to become leaders. So then I now put a man with a vision, a leader, with ability to execute what he thinks is right, in IBRA.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

Canberra, 26 June 2001 Indonesian Embassy

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment