Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ex-SAS Man Tipped as Jakarta Envoy

KEVIN Rudd's national security adviser, former SAS commander Duncan Lewis, is the frontrunner to become Australia's next ambassador to Jakarta. Diplomatic sources in Canberra and Jakarta told The Australian yesterday that the Indonesian-speaking Mr Lewis was in line to replace the current ambassador, Bill Farmer, whose term is about to expire. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would neither confirm nor deny the appointment. A spokesman for the Prime Minister referred queries to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's staff, who also declined to confirm or deny the claims.

But the appointment, if it goes ahead, would be very significant.

Mr Lewis, 54, who has previously served as defence attache in Jakarta and retired from the army as a major-general, is a high-profile special forces officer and intelligence expert. And he had a "formidable" knowledge of Indonesia, said a national security expert and former long-term Jakarta resident. "More broadly he is across a range of high-level security issues on the agenda between Canberra and Jakarta - terrorism, police and military co-operation, people-smuggling, border control and illegal fishing," he said. Mr Lewis retired from the army in 2005 and was recruited by former prime minister John Howard, and appointed first assistant secretary of the national security division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In December 2008, he was appointed as national security adviser
to the Rudd government.

A seasoned crisis manager, Mr Lewis was also the commander of Australian troops in East Timor after the departure of then major general Peter Cosgrove - at a time of high tension along the border after the 1999 Australian-led Interfet deployment. Senior diplomatic sources also told The Australian yesterday that Czech-born deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Miles Kupa, would be the next ambassador to Malaysia.

The 64-year-old career diplomat, fluent in Thai, Indonesian and French, has extensive experience of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Mr Kupa served as high commissioner to Singapore from 2005 to 2008, as ambassador to Thailand from 2000 to 2004 and as ambassador to The Philippines from 1996 to 1999. The current high commissioner to Malaysia is Penny Williams, who previously served as first assistant secretary for DFAT's corporate management division. The Australian by Mark Dodd

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