Sunday, June 22, 2014

Australia has Indonesia "phobia", says presidential candidate

Jakarta: Australia has a “phobia” about Indonesia and is to blame for the poor relationship between the two countries, strong-man presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto said during a nationally televised debate on Sunday.

His opponent, the favourite Joko Widodo, proposed taking Australia to an international court over asylum seekers if diplomacy failed to solve the disagreement.

The subject of Australia came up twice in the international relations and defence debate between Prabowo and Joko, just over two weeks before the crucial July 9 presidential election.

Both candidates agreed that the relationship between the two countries was poor, but when Joko asked his opponent why it was so unstable, Prabowo answered: “Honestly, I think the problem is Australia’s, not ours."


“Maybe there is some kind of suspicion or phobia towards us, perhaps because we’re such a big country with a big population, and we’re sometimes regarded as emotional," he said.

"Also, we've engaged several times in military action, so maybe they think we’re a problem.”

Prabowo, a former army special forces general who is running on a platform of firm leadership, said he wanted the two countries to be good neighbours, and to “assure Australia that we are not a threat”.

“However, we have to be firm in protecting our core national interest … When you play chess you have a number of pieces on the board, but when talking about a country, you’re talking about how many planes you have, how many submarines,” Prabowo said.

He has promised to bolster Indonesia's armed forces using money saved by stopping corruption and international, neoliberal traders from "stealing" from the country.

Prabowo also said more than once during the debate that Indonesia should not “surrender one centimetre of territory” to a hypothetical enemy.

Joko, the narrow favourite and currently the governor of Jakarta, agreed there was a “lack of trust” between Indonesia and Australia, as illustrated by the phone tapping issue late last year. He said it stemmed in part from a general lack of respect shown to Indonesia.

“I think we are always regarded as a weak country … we have to show that we are a country with dignity, and not let other countries treat us as weaklings,” he said.

He proposed better government, business and community ties with Australia, including through educational and cultural exchanges.

On the subject of asylum seekers, Joko said if the dispute could not be solved by dialogue, “we can bring them to international courts if necessary”. He did not elaborate which court or which jurisdiction he believed would apply.

Prabowo refused to take the bait on people smuggling, reiterating his commitment to not surrender Indonesia’s territorial integrity and saying “our national strength is key”.

He would adopt Indonesia’s current international relations policy, which is to have “a thousand friends and no enemies”.

There are two more presidential debates before polling day.

Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is in the last year of his second term and is barred by the constitution from running again.
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1 comment:

  1. shocking statement by presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto last Sunday that the state had lost Rp 7.2 quadrillion due to corruption and inefficiency.

    Almost all analysts, ministers and former ministers immediately rejected Prabowo’s figures as simply groundless, irrational and completely wrong even though he claimed that the number originated from an official statement by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Abraham Samad.

    Samad himself denied Prabowo’s statement, asserting that the presidential candidate grossly misquoted him out of context and not from the right perspective.