Indonesia accepts Australian apology over military spat

Lt-Gen Campbell (far left) and Gen Gatot met at the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap on Wednesday. Lt-Gen Campbell provided an update on his country's investigation into training materials that the Indonesian military deemed offensive.
Lt-Gen Campbell (left) and Gen Gatot met at the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap on Wednesday. Lt-Gen Campbell provided an update on his country's investigation into training materials that the Indonesian military deemed offensive.PHOTO: PUSPEN TNI

Row over 'offensive' course materials settled but no word on when military ties will resume

Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) chief Gatot Nurmantyo has accepted an apology from the Australian Army over training materials that the Indonesian military deemed offensive.

But he stopped short of announcing a resumption of full military cooperation with Australia, which was suspended after an Indonesian Special Forces soldier claimed he saw course materials used during training in Perth that allegedly disparaged the TNI and Indonesia's national ideology, Pancasila.

General Gatot said on Wednesday: "Pancasila is the national ideology of Indonesia as well as for all its people, which is why the Indonesian people are willing to die to defend the ideology. For our soldiers, it is very sensitive and painful (for it to be insulted)."

He made this remark after meeting Australian Army chief Angus Campbell at the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap. Lieutenant-General Campbell offered his apologies and provided an update on Australia's investigation into the incident.

He told Gen Gatot that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had suspended its training modules related to Indonesia.

According to a statement released by the TNI on Wednesday, the ADF had also punished the personnel responsible for the incident and, in return, Gen Gatot expressed his gratitude for the ADF's resolution of the issue.

'SENSITIVE AND PAINFUL'

Pancasila is the national ideology of Indonesia as well as for all its people, which is why the Indonesian people are willing to die to defend the ideology. For our soldiers, it is very sensitive and painful (for it to be insulted).

TNI CHIEF GATOT NURMANTYO, on the incident.

The four-star general did not indicate when military ties between the two countries would resume. But he will discuss the matter with Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, before updating Indonesian President Joko Widodo, said the TNI.

The Indonesian Special Forces, or Kopassus, train regularly with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, based at Campbell Barracks in Perth.

This latest debacle between the armed forces came on the back of improved bilateral relations after a visit by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Jakarta just over a year ago.

The ADF and TNI have cooperated closely on counter-terrorism in recent years, although they also had a testy relationship owing to Australia's involvement in the lead-up to Indonesia's withdrawal from Timor Leste in 2002.

Disputes over boat people and the live cattle trade, as well as a 2013 scandal over attempts by Australia's spy agency to wiretap then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, have strained relations between the two neighbours in the past.

But ties appeared to be on the mend over the past year after Mr Turnbull met Mr Joko in 2015.

Both governments were also quick to play down the incident.

After news broke last month that all military cooperation between the TNI and ADF was put on hold, Indonesian chief security minister Wiranto clarified that the suspension covered only the language training component conducted at the Perth camp.

Mr Wiranto, a former army general who was TNI chief during the Suharto era, also confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Joko will visit Mr Turnbull in Australia on Feb 26 to reaffirm bilateral ties between the two countries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia accepts Australian apology over military spat'. Print Edition | Subscribe