Indonesia reacted furiously yesterday to Australia's decision to grant temporary visas to asylum seekers from Papua Province, recalling its ambassador and warning that the move jeopardized ties between the neighboring countries.
"The government of Indonesia is surprised, disappointed and very much regrets this decision," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it showed that "elements in Australia" back the eastern Indonesian region's separatist movement.
Australia said on Thursday that 42 of a group of 43 people from the province had been granted temporary protection visas, entitling them to stay in Australia for three years.
The group, who arrived in northeastern Australia in January, had accused the Indonesian military of conducting genocide in their homeland while putting down the decades-long separatist movement.
Granting the group asylum is sensitive because it is an effective acknowledgment by Canberra that Indonesian security forces are abusing human rights in Papua, where rights activists say 100,000 have been killed in anti-insurgent operations since 1969.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said yesterday that he was ordering Indonesia's ambassador in Australia to return to Jakarta "as soon as the first flight could bring [him] ... back home" to discuss the matter.
Wirajuda said there had been no discussion of cutting diplomatic relations entirely.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono personally called Australian Prime Minister John Howard to reassure him that the group, which includes seven children, would not be harmed if they returned to Papua.
Indonesia's parliament yesterday urged the government to permanently withdraw Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb.
"We regret the move by the Australian government which can only worsen bilateral relations," House Speaker Agung Laksono said in a speech before the 550-seat parliament.
The foreign ministry said the Papuans were "economic migrants who wanted to start a better life" in Australia and reiterated earlier claims they were in no danger in Papua, which is mostly Christian, unlike the rest of mainly Muslim Indonesia.
"The decision is counter productive and does not take into account the sensitivities of the Indonesian people regarding this issue," the strongly worded statement said. "It is against the spirit of bilateral cooperation."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he hoped ties would not suffer as a result of the decision, which he said was legally impossible for the government to overturn.
"Bilateral cooperation is in our mutual interest," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, stressing that Australia still recognized Papua as an integral part of Indonesia.
Many Indonesians believe that Australia secretly supports Papuan independence -- suspicions that stem largely from the key role Australian troops played in restoring order to East Timor when it broke from Jakarta's rule in 1999.
The ministry also claimed the decision could hurt Indonesian moves to broker a peace deal in Papua.
Indonesia's military chief questioned why the Australian coast guard had been unable to spot the asylum seekers' wooden boat and turn it away before it landed.
Over a few hours under gray skies, dozens of combat planes and helicopters roar on and off the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, in a demonstration of US military power in some of the world’s most hotly contested waters. MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornet jets bearing pilot call signs such as “Fozzie Bear,” “Pig Sweat” and “Bongoo” emit deafening screams as they land in the drizzle on the Nimitz, which is leading a carrier strike group that entered the South China Sea two weeks ago. US Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, who is commanding the group, said the tour
Sitting in a lotus position, four men weave glittering beads through gold thread on an organza sheet, carefully constructing a wedding dress that would soon wow crowds at Paris Fashion Week. For once, the French couturier behind the design, Julien Fournie, is determined to put these craftsmen in the spotlight. His new collection, which showed in Paris on Tuesday, was entirely made with fabrics from Mumbai. He said that a sort of “design imperialism” means that French fashion houses often play down that their fabrics are made outside France. “The houses which don’t admit it are perhaps afraid of losing their clientele,” Fournie
A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot contravened the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested in August last year. The law covers the king, queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for
INSTABILITY: The country has seen a 33 percent increase in land that cultivates poppies since the military took over the government in 2021, a UN report said The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by one-third in the past year, as eradication efforts have dropped and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, a UN report released yesterday showed. Last year, the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, saw a 33 percent increase in Myanmar’s cultivation area to 40,100 hectares, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report said. “Economic, security and governance disruptions