JAKARTA – Indonesia has halted all defence co-operation with Australia over an alleged insult of Indonesian state ideology.
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Indonesian military spokesman Major General Wuryanto said that cooperation has been suspended indefinitely, and that the decision was made after considering many matters.
Although the spokesman declined to give the exact reason for the decision, he said the reasons included reports of an Indonesian instructor saying that a “laminated paper” displayed at the Australian Special Forces base where he worked was insulting.
Australian Defence officials confirmed Indonesia had suspended all defence co-operation over “teaching materials”.
Bilateral relations have been tense at times in recent years, although there were signs of improvement in recent times.
Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne said later in a statement: “Late last year concerns were raised by an Indonesian TNI (Indonesian National Armed Forces) officer about some teaching materials and remarks at an Army language training facility in Australia.”
“The Australian Army has looked into the serious concerns that were raised and the investigation into the incident is being finalized.”
According to Indonesian media reports, the allegedly insulting paper displayed at the Special Forces base contained words that demeaned Pancasila, a set of vague principles that mandates belief in one God and unity among Indonesia’s 250 million people.
What is Pancasila?
The official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state. Consists of two Javanese words, originally from Sanskrit: “panca” meaning five and “sila” meaning principles.
The principles are: The one God system (monotheism), just and civilised humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice for all.
Ignoring these principles is illegal. For instance, Indonesians must hold a religion because of the first one – being an atheist is illegal in the country.
The countries’ navies had been expected to take part in multinational training exercises next month.
“Whether or not we will continue with the joint exercise, I will have to get back to you on that,” First Admiral Jonias Mozes Sipasulta, from the Indonesian navy, told the ABC.
Australia has stopped conducting joint training exercises with the Kopassus before, after accusations of abuses by the unit in East Timor in 1999 in the lead-up to the former Indonesian territory’s independence.
The co-operation resumed in 2006 amid a renewed focus on counter-terrorism after two Bali nightclubs were bombed in 2002, killing 202 people including 88 Australians.
In December 2015, the nations signed a “memorandum of understanding” after Indonesia arrested nine people over an alleged terror threat following a tip-off that reportedly came from Australian Federal Police.
In September last year, the first joint training exercise on Australian soil since 1995 was staged in the northern city of Darwin.
In November, the nations flagged the prospect of joint military patrols in the South China Sea – something Australia already does with the US and India.