SBY warns against Balibo probe

By Geoff Thompson in Jakarta for AM

Posted 18 minutes ago

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned that relations with Australia may be harmed by the Australian Federal Police's fresh investigation into the 1975 deaths of the Balibo Five.

Five Australia-based journalists were killed in East Timor, allegedly as part of a cover-up of Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese colony.

But Mr Yudhoyono has questioned the need to rake over the past, asking whether it could potentially extend back to the injustices of the colonial era.

Last night on the 7.30 Report, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued that while it was clearly a sensitive issue, the AFP probe would not derail Australia's good relationship with Indonesia.

"Obviously our friends in Jakarta have been surprised by this because it's been quite a long time," he said.

"I know the Foreign Minister has been dealing with Indonesian officials on this, and I believe we can see our way through this effectively."

But Mr Yudhoyono made it clear last night that he thought the AFP investigation was a backward step in his country's relationship with Australia.

"Frankly, this of course goes against our desire to look to the future, the desire of Indonesia and East Timor to end all those things that harm our relationship, through our decision together to form the Commission of Truth and Friendship," he said.

"This is important, so the good or even great relationship between Indonesia and Australia is not harmed by problems that have arisen because of a mindset or way of thinking that, in our opinion, is inaccurate."

Mr Yudhoyono also questioned when investigations of the past would stop.

By way of comparison, he referred to Raymond Westerling, a Dutch colonial-era commander who Indonesia unsuccessfully attempted to pursue for alleged war crimes abuses.

But, unlike Australia, the President inferred Indonesia was a "clever and wise country", which did not dwell on abuses it suffered as a colony of the Netherlands.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Indonesia would not reopen the case.

"Anyone outside East Timor can say anything they want but it won't make it possible that Indonesia would reopen the Balibo case," he said.

Indonesia's Defence Minister, Juwono Sudarsono, also rejected the relevance of the new AFP investigation, saying that the case was closed and only being pursued as part of Australia's local political agenda to pacify "some elements".

East Timor's Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, agreed that the probe was unlikely to be successful.

He said he did not believe the Australian Government would go ahead with it even though he'd like to see them try.


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