News National Indonesia backs down on suspension of military co-operation with Australia

Indonesia backs down on suspension of military co-operation with Australia

Australian Indonesia military
ADF chief Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin with his Indonesian counterpart, General Gatot Nurmantyo. Photo: Department of Defence
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AAP has reported that a Wikipedia article about former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s father-in-law and his controversial military service in West Papua is believed to have played a part in sparking a suspension in military ties with Australia.

It was revealed this week the Indonesian military suspended defence co-operation with Australia last month without the involvement of President Joko Widodo or his defence minister.

The suspension was triggered after an Indonesian special forces trainer teaching language studies at a Perth military academy was offended by material being used by an Australian student late last year.

It is understood the material concerned information taken from the online encyclopedia website Wikipedia about the late General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, who is considered a national hero in Indonesia.

General Wibowo was involved in leading the purge of communists in Indonesia in 1965.

Before West Papua became Indonesian territory, General Wibowo oversaw the 1969 referendum dubbed the “An Act of Free Choice”, which has since been widely condemned as a sham when only 1025 people were selected to vote.

The Indonesian trainer was also offended by a poster that ridiculed Indonesia’s founding ideology, Pancasila.


Indonesia appears to have backed down over its suspension of all military cooperation with Australia.

Top cabinet minister Wiranto has issued a statement saying the suspension will only apply to language classes at Special Forces facilities.

It is a reversal from comments made over the past 24 hours and an apparent intervention from the Indonesian Government over the head of military chief Gatot Nurmantyo.

General Gatot is an outspoken critic of Australia who raised concerns about attempts to “recruit” young Indonesian soldiers as intelligence sources.

Defence Minister Marise Payne rejected those claims as unfounded and “something we would not countenance”.

Earlier, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said relations with Australia remain in a good condition.

Military ties between the countries were cut after an Indonesian officer complained about “insulting” training posters at the Special Air Service’s Campbell Barracks in Perth.

Indonesian Special Forces group Kopassus trains with the SAS at the base.

The complaint, in November last year, prompted Australian Defence leaders to launch furious efforts to try to smooth relations with their counterparts in Jakarta.

Sources familiar with the incident confirmed the “laminated material” concerned perhaps Indonesia’s most sensitive topic – West Papua, which is an Indonesian province that has tried to seek independence from Jakarta.

Marise Payne said the offending material had been removed from the base. Photo: AAP

Senator Payne confirmed the complaints concerned “some teaching materials and remarks” at an Army language training facility.

She said the material had been removed.

Until this incident the military relationship between the two nations had been improving.

Military cooperation between the two nations was last suspended in 2013 over a phone-tapping scandal.

Documents obtained by the ABC and Guardian Australia revealed that in 2009, Australian intelligence attempted to tap the mobile phone of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Indonesian and Australian navies are due to participate in multinational training exercises in February.


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