East Timor and China on Marty’s Asean Agenda
Ismira Lutfia | April 03, 2012
Foreign ministers and delegates of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pose for a photograph after a signing ceremony during the ASEAN Summit 2012 at the Peace Palace in the Office of the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Reuters Photo/Samrang Pring) 

Indonesia will try to help East Timor become the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ 11th member while pushing for completion of a human rights declaration this year during the group’s summit in Cambodia this week.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Indonesia will also build on its success as the group’s chair last year in creating a clearer ruling in the ongoing dispute over the South China Sea and persuading nuclear powers to join the Asean pact to forego nuclear weaponry.

“It’s impossible to have a Southeast Asian community while leaving one country in the region behind. We should have a vision that Timor Leste is part of the Asean family,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Friday, referring to East Timor.

He played down suggestions that East Timor, a former Indonesian province before voting to break away in 1999, was unfit for Asean membership due to its lack of resources.

“We should see this application as part of a bigger picture and not merely get stuck on technicalities,” Marty said.

East Timor officially submitted its application to Asean on March 4 last year, when Indonesia held the chairmanship. The current chair is Cambodia.

Despite Indonesia’s support, Singapore has resisted East Timor’s application, fearing the country could hamper the group’s effort to become a full-fledged community by 2015. Other member states have been largely indifferent to the proposal.

At a Bali summit in November, Asean leaders formed a task force to review the country’s application. Marty said the grouping’s foreign ministers are awaiting the recommendation of the task force.

The minister, however, would not say whether the country could be accepted before 2015.

Besides the East Timor issue, Indonesia will also seek to persuade other members to agree on a draft of the group’s human rights declaration despite Cambodia’s discouraging human rights track record.

“Asean’s performance is determined by the 10 members. Of course, the chair plays a crucial role. But Indonesia and Cambodia have good ties,” he said.

The declaration is expected to serve as a commitment from members to uphold human rights principles, paving the way for the establishment of an Asean human rights commission and greater scrutiny of individual countries’ human rights violations.

However, many human rights activists have voiced pessimism at that prospect, pointing to the poor records of several Asean members, including Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Among the 10 members, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand support a push for a more progressive declaration.

The drafting of the declaration has been bogged down for more than a year as several countries try to water it down. The delay has prompted criticism of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the body responsible for finishing the draft.

Amnesty International has accused the commission of working largely in secrecy and not adequately consulting with human rights NGOs.

On the South China Sea issue, Marty said Indonesia will continue to press for the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties to the South China Sea, a technical cooperation among disputing nations to reduce tensions and avoid direct clashes, that was agreed between China and Asean in Bali last year, ending a nine-year impasse.

China lays an all-encompassing claim to the South China Sea, a vital shipping lane that is also believed to be rich in oil and natural resources. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also lay overlapping claims to the area.

Marty also said Indonesia will push for a unified stance to discuss with China the code of conduct, a more legally binding ruling pertaining to the South China Sea.

Indonesia, Marty said, will build on the momentum it created during its chairmanship last year.

“We will continue on what we have done during our chairmanship so it doesn’t stop once others take the chair. We want to turn the vicious circle into a virtuous circle,” he said.

In efforts to extend the influence of the Asean Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, Indonesia will continue to lead the grouping in talks with nations possessing a nuclear capability to bring them into the weapons-free fold.

Marty said Indonesia will also encourage discussion on creating an Asean single-visa regime.

With President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono saying he will stay in Jakarta following the heated domestic political battle over fuel subsidies, Vice President Boediono will represent Indonesia at the summit.

Boediono left Jakarta for Phnom Penh on Monday.

Source: Jakarta Globe

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