Indonesia is deeply concerned with the situation of Rohingya Muslims
In the image above: (R) Ms. Esti Andayani – The Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway with Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief The Oslo Times (L)
Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel.
It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues.
TOT: To start with we shall start with Indonesia-Norway ties. Not long ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Retno Marsudi said that, “Indonesia and Norway have had a very intensive relationship in the last couple of years. What makes this relationship to appear so busy and fruitful, and what should we anticipate in the future?” We would like you to dilate on this in detail so as to enlighten our readers worldwide?
Ms. Esti Andayani: The long standing bond of friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two countries have always been good and grown stronger. Several instruments of cooperation were signed during the tenure of Ambassador Retno Marsudi in Oslo. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Norway twice in 2006 and 2010 during his tenure. In reciprocal, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a state visit to Indonesia in 2007.
The bilateral relations between Indonesia and Norway have been strengthened and enhanced following the signing of Dynamic Partnership (November 2010) which is not only on the framework of bilateral cooperation but also multilateral dimension. Most of the bilateral issues are interlinked with multilateral issues such as human rights, climate change and environment, energy, security, global health, MDGs. To this end, Indonesia and Norway enjoy continuous close cooperation on Dialogue on Human Rights; cooperation in REDD+ (Reductions of Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation); Security Policy Consultation; Foreign Policy and Global Health; MDG 4 and 5 and other international issues.
Whereas in the areas of economic cooperation, the ongoing negotiations on Indonesia – EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) are running smoothly where up to now five rounds of negotiations have taken place. The bilateral relations focus also on increasing trade and investment and energy security. With rapid changes in global situation, these issues would be fundamental for future cooperation.
TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Indonesia and Norway can function together as successful partners and cooperate together for the development and improvement of existing bilateral ties with each other? While answering this question we would like you to speak also on the areas that can provide a boost to Indonesia’s economic prospect vis a vis Norway?
Ms. Esti Andayani: The strategic area of cooperation between Indonesia – Norway is the REDD+ cooperation. This is one of core bilateral issues between Indonesia and Norway, which has been highlighted during the meeting between President of the Republic of Indonesia and Prime Minister of Norway, in the margins of Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, 26 March 2012. Indonesia and Norway Partnership on REDD+ cooperation should serve as a model of bilateral cooperation in the multilateral dimension. Indonesia promotes that kind of partnership in the sidelines event of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)/Rio+20, 20-22 June 2012.
Besides the cooperation in the field of environment, there are more sectors that are potential to be enhanced such as energy, maritime, fisheries and infrastructures. Indonesia is now become more attractive for foreign investors due to its enhanced investment climate and recent upgrading of Indonesia’s investment grade by two global and well-known rating agencies, ‘’the Fitch’’ and ‘’Standard and Poor’’. The Indonesian fundamental economy remains strong, showing resilience growth coupled with low government debt and prudent policy. This is a promising and saleable factor in the middle of increasing concerned on the prospect of global economy. Therefore, it is a high time for Norway and Indonesia to improve their trade and investment activities.
As you might already be aware of, that in 2011, the bilateral trade volume reached USD 309.5 million. This number is still considered small compared to the potentials of the two countries that still can be explored by setting target and focus on particular commodities or sectors. I warm-heartedly welcome Norway’s decision to reopen the office of Innovation Norway in Jakarta in 2012. I expect that Innovation Norway could not only encourage Norway’s business sectors to expand their cooperation with Indonesia’s counterparts but also acts as a matchmaking agent for bridging business opportunities between big companies and small medium enterprises for both countries.
TOT: Now, expanding our vista here, let us come to what your Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said on the 19th of July – as reported in almost all the Indonesian newspapers and also aired by the BBC — Indonesia has been selected to host the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management which will operate starting this year. “The heads of state/government of ASEAN member countries have agreed that the AHA Centre should be set up in Indonesia this year” …We would like to have your concise and precise response and views on this statement by your minister?
Ms. Esti Andayani: According to Synthesis Report on Ten ASEAN Countries Disaster Risk Assessment (December 2010), the region reported 1,211 occurrences of disasters with over 414,900 casualties over the last 40 years (1970-2009). These numbers could be higher as there were also unreported cases. Most of ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, are prone to disasters. Disasters affect on ASEAN countries’ economies, and the lives of millions of people in the region.
In the light of constant disasters and humanitarian situations in the region, ASEAN agreed on a legally binding pact to establish national and regional structures to deal with disasters, and endorsed the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) in July 2005, which mandated the establishment of AHA Center. The center is the hub for disaster information, coordination of relief mobilization, coordination of joint emergency response, administration coordination, and disaster research and study. In fact, AHA Center has started its operation in June 2011.
Having experienced the biggest disaster in the 2004 with the Aceh’s tsunami, Indonesia has learned about disaster management and made it a government priority by establishing the National Agency for Disaster Management and its regional offices through the Act No. 24/2007 on Disaster Management. Many countries have recognized and also learned from our experiences and successes in dealing with disaster management and disaster risk reduction.
Given the above facts, I can reaffirm Indonesia remains committed to actively participate in enhancing international cooperation in disaster management and humanitarian situations. Those facts also show that we are more prepared and ready with the infrastructure and human resources to host the AHA Center. Indonesia welcomes cooperation in the field of disaster management at all levels: bilateral, regional, and multilateral. Although we understand that cooperation among the ASEAN member states and other states or parties can be in form of bilateral cooperation, such cooperation should not overshadow ASEAN cooperation, internally or with a third party, in the regional level through AHA Center.
TOT: Your country has had a traditional history of ties with Australia and this long range of bilateral relationship and cooperation was highlighted by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech on a seminar held on Australian-Indonesian ties sometime back (Reported by the press and electronic media of both the countries and also available on Youtube on the Internet). Mr. Rudd also spoke on both the countries bonding with ASEAN member states and also on the scope of further cementing of ties between your country and his. Do explain this to us in detail for the benefit of our readers?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Yes, I remembered his speech very well. Indeed, Indonesia and Australia has a long history of friendship, and what used to be a love-hate relationship is now a mutual love for each other. I myself see that the care and attention given by Australia and the people of Australia after the Bali Bombing in 2002, and later at the event of tsunami in 2004 as a turning point, and from there on our relationship never looks back.
Australia is our biggest neighbor, not only in term of territory but also cooperation. Our cooperation ranges from political, to economic, development, security, education, health, and you name it. We are now partners, we benefit from each other, and one’s problem or suffering is also of the other’s interest. Therefore it is important for us to maintain this good relationship.
And that is also the reason we support and welcome further cooperation with Australia through ASEAN. Australia is also one of ASEAN’s biggest neighbor, and having always supporting ASEAN, I think involving Australia as ASEAN’s dialogue partner was the correct path. Australia has also been included in East Asia Summit since the very beginning in 2005. In 2010, the ASEAN-Australia Summit was held in Hanoi, and it highlighted ASEAN – Australia relations and cooperation, including in trade, in which the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force in January 2010. But not only in economy, on that summit we also underlined cooperation in ASEAN’s other pillars, that is in political-security cooperation, and socio-cultural, which I think is good for both parties.
TOT: It is also a known fact that both Norway and Indonesia are energy sufficient and oil producing nations, even though the former after being an observer and the latter having left the OPEC in 2008, on the grounds of becoming a net importer. Delve on this and tell us as to how you will assess the possibilities of further joint cooperation between the two countries and also tell us about what has been done and achieved so far?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Although Indonesia is no longer member of OPEC, it does not mean that we do not have anymore energy potential. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing country in the world and our interest now is more to fulfill domestic needs. We still have many unexplored potentials and we see that Norway has technical experience and capability to help us in exploring our energy potentials.
Energy cooperation between Indonesia and Norway in the form of bilateral consultation on energy has been regularly conducted following the signing of MoU between the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Indonesia and the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Kingdom of Norway Concerning Cooperation in the Energy Field in Jakarta, 1995. In the last bilateral energy consultation held in Yogyakarta, 6-7 October 2011, Indonesia and Norway were committed to implementing concrete cooperation in the future.
Indonesia is highly interested in further promoting bilateral cooperation in renewable energy to support its green economy policy, including to materialize concrete cooperation in renewable energy sector. This sector is believed to become the priority of future cooperation among others in hydropower, geothermal dan off-shore wind.
I would like to share you an example of one finished projects, which is the Baron Technopark Project in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta funded by Norwegian Development Cooperation (NOK 6.5 million, equivalent to US$ 1 million). This project is a prototype of new and renewable energy (solar, wind and geothermal) which not only is purposed for research and development of renewable energy, but also as a center of education and social activity in the energy sector for the general public. Norway also invest in mini hydropower in Manipi, South Sulawesi valued at USD 22 million and is currently investing in other hydropower projects.
Besides renewable energy, there is also a cooperation on oil and gas sector. For your information, Statoil has operated in Indonesia since 2007 and currently has been appointed as operator in Karama and Kuma block in Makassar Strait and six other locations in eastern part of Indonesia.
TOT: The President of your country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on the 22nd of this month that Indonesia will never leave ASEAN despite its growing role in the Group of 20 rich and developing nations (G20). Being an important member of ASEAN and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), could you explain the position of Indonesia in promoting the significance of your country and also highlight the cause and vision of its being in the two groupings?
Ms. Esti Andayani: What I can share with you is that ASEAN is our root. We grow up together, as family. And just like members of family could live or work elsewhere, they will always come home. That is what ASEAN to us. Indonesia is one of ASEAN’s founding fathers, and also one that initiated that there should be an ASEAN Community. Indonesia also has its role in envisioning the ASEAN Vision 2020. Not only that ASEAN States grow together and ASEAN nurtures us, but we also nurtured ASEAN, making it big and strong as it is today. And I believe that it will getting stronger.
In terms of statistics, ASEAN covers an area of 4.46 million km2, with a population of approximately 600 million people, which is about 8.8% of the world’s population. That is a big number, not only in terms of human resources but also potential market. Most of us have similar state of development and it is growing rapidly much to the world’s envy. For ASEAN, being united provides better chances in growing than if we are on our separate ways. And Indonesia wants to keep it that way.
As with APEC, all members of ASEAN are also the member of APEC. ASEAN states do not leave their root in APEC, and we walk together. Every decision taken should be beneficial for all ASEAN members, not only for one. Together we are stronger, and having more bargaining power, which we hope in the future are comparable with super powers such as China and the US at the APEC Forum. Indonesia wants to be and is committed to be the driving force for that to happen.
We are proud of our active role in the G20. It really signifies the recognition of our growing economy and our potentials to grow even further and faster. But then again, being in the ASEAN is also one of the reasons we got so far. I think Indonesia’s admission to the G20 will not only strengthen Indonesia’s role and position in the world, but will be beneficial for ASEAN as well, as we can say that being the only ASEAN country in G20, Indonesia represents the region in the forum.
TOT: Now, Honourable Ambassador, highlight and explain to us the significance of being a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and tell us this too – for the benefit of our readers worldwide — about your country’s take on human rights violations which are being committed in Myanmar/Burma by the Rakhine Buddhists against the Rohingya Muslim community? Being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population what do you think about the genocide being carried out under the very nose of the Burmese military junta as well as in front of Nobel Peace Winner Aung San Suu Kyi?
Ms. Esti Andayani: We are deeply concerned with the recent situation in Rakhine, Myanmar. We understand that that kind of situation could happen everywhere in a world of multi-ethnic society. Without more detailed information, I would not engage myself for further comments. However, I believe that the Indonesian government will take any necessary measures through various mechanisms in settling the issue, including bilateral, regional ASEAN, OIC and the UN.
TOT: Our next question is a continuation of the previous one. Give us your views on the recent press and electronic media reports (Newspapers and television channels of India, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh and also published prominently by The Oslo Times a few days ago) some of the escapees/ survivors of the Rohingya Muslim community were saved by the Indonesian Navy. The Rohingyas were left as stranded people right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Did your country do something or intends to do something positive to take an account of this fleeing of a people belonging to a segregated and downtrodden community of Myanmar and yet without doubt happen to be, beyond the shadow of a doubt, its citizens too? Give us your answer in a nutshell?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia always withholds its national law in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers with respect to various ratified International Human Rights Conventions, in cooperation with the UNHCR.
Indonesia treats every illegal migrant including refugees and asylum seekers equally regardless of their nationalities, including the Rohingyas. Although there are a number of Rohingyas refugees to Indonesia, their numbers are insignificant compare to those coming to Malaysia.
Indonesia is not a party of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees; therefore it is the duty of the UNHCR to independently determine the status of illegal migrants. The Government of Indonesia basically supports the decisions of the UNHCR and promotes durable solutions through 3 alternatives i.e. voluntary repatriation, resettlement in third country, and local settlement in Indonesia.
TOT: Now, respected Ambassador, coming to your ties with Australia, do share your views on the growing refugee crisis which has been fueled by the Australian immigration policy, in which human traffickers are taking advantage to provide asylum to people fleeing your country to Australia by illegal methods? If your country has been affected gravely by this activity then what is it doing to cope with it and curb it? Also, what has been the Australian response and cooperation with the authorities of your country in this regard?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia notes the increasing numbers of refugees from Middle East countries (Afghanistan and Iran) and from neighboring countries (Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka). The numbers of illegal migrants heading for Australia via Indonesia has multiplied since 2008 and this has become the concern of the Indonesian Government. In dealing with this matter, Indonesia and Australia has established cooperation by signing the Lombok Treaty in 2006.
At regional level, the Bali Process is a regional forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia. This forum discusses the solution for people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational organized crimes in the region. The activities within the Bali Process are technical, voluntary and non-binding with the focus on capacity building.
In recent development, the members of Bali Process agreed to continue the cooperation through Regional Cooperation Framework (RCF) which in operational level is conducted by establishing the Regional Support Office (RSO) in Bangkok.
TOT: Now coming to the human rights situation in the West Papua it is important to mention the latest Amnesty International report on Indonesia which says that there is a critical situation in West Papua– a humanitarian crisis – which needs to be addressed and resolved at the earliest possible. We shall be delighted to have your thoughts on this situation in West Papua and the problems which are threatening to build up more and more with each passing day?
Ms. Esti Andayani: First of all, I would like to make sure that we refer to the same definition when we address West Papua. Currently, we have two provinces in Indonesian Papua, namely the Papua and the West Papua. We recognized that there are some incidents of violence happened recently in Papua and West Papua. I would like to ensure you that the incident and the issue of Papua are not issues of sovereignty, but rather a political, social, justice and welfare issue. There is no such humanitarian crisis as reported by the Amnesty International.
Since 2005, the Indonesian government has promoted welfare and justice approaches in developing Papua and West Papua. Both provinces have received special autonomy, including a policy allowing them to accelerate development in a special budget allocation. Furthermore, the implementation of the master plan for accelerating and expanding the development of Indonesia’s economy (MP3EI) has made the region, along with Moluccas, a potential territory in the economic development strategies with concrete project, budget and agenda. The Indonesian government has also established a Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), to help resolve development problems that might arise. From political side, the government has actively engaged in dialogues with various stakeholders in the region to deal with various problems.
To further accelerates the improvement of human capacity in both Provinces, the Indonesian Government implements several affirmative actions, such as quota for education i.e. in police forces and the position of ‘’putra daerah’’ (people of local ethnicities) in the local government. Meanwhile, the government also continues to intensify efforts to build and promote a more conducive situation in both Provinces, among others, by making various efforts to increase welfare, law enforcement and respect for human rights and continues to develop a more democratic political life.
The fundamental policy of the Indonesian Government concerning Papua and West Papua has undergone a significant transformation, altering the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach, within the context of Indonesian territorial integrity. The implementation of special autonomy has shifted sweeping powers and authority from Jakarta to Papua and West Papua allowing them to regulate and manage based on their own interests. However, the acceleration of economic and social development is still a challenge ahead. This is due to the least developed infrastructure and public services caused by geographical aspects as well as different traditional legal systems. Therefore, the focus of the Government is to deal with these challenges with various measures.
TOT: Now, let us inform you that quite recently The Oslo Times met with Benny Wenda, a representative of West Papua movement in Oslo — who was invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012. Benny Wenda explained to us about the situation in West Papua and the discrimination which Papuans face in Indonesia especially at the hands of the Indonesian Army. Please clarify on this?
Ms. Esti Andayani: As I have mentioned before, the Government has altered the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach. Since then, the Government has pulled out military units that were no longer necessary in Papua and West Papua, and kept only a small number of units that are essentials to maintain security and protect the people. Nowadays, the police have more roles in maintaining order. The various incidents happened in Papua and West Papua recently were more of criminal acts, which were handled in accordance to Indonesian laws and regulations.
The people of Papua and West Papua have never been discriminated. They are even given special treatment to sit in various positions within the local government that only they can withhold, which people of other ethnicities are not entitled.
TOT: Reverend Ambassador, Indonesia, as is known to the world is a country which, despite being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population, is resilient and tolerant to the people belonging to all faiths, cultures and historical genesis. It is indeed highly appreciable. We would like you to tell us on the struggle going on against extremism in the world and highlight Indonesia’s stand and efforts directed against fundamentalism of all kinds, extremism and fanaticism as well as militancy. Our question assumes more relevance as it is clearly visible that since some time in the past extremism and militancy are threatening the stability of your own country?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Indeed Indonesia is the country with largest Moslem population in the world, but Indonesia is not a Moslem country. We respect differences and hold the values of tolerance. Differences indeed exist. The emergence of groups with extreme-right views has posed a challenge to Indonesia, such as acts of terrorism and militancy. Globally, this kind of trends also emerges in other democratic countries. I believe you share the same opinion, that in several Western countries, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam groups are in the political mainstream, and they have positions within the Parliament which could be influential. In comparison, such groups and activities are not recognized in the political mainstream in Indonesia.
The problems arise from the practice of religions you hear here in Norway and many other Western countries are actually quite minor. Unfortunately, international community is not very well informed about religious harmony exists in Indonesia. Regrettably the minor scaled problems receive more media coverage, nationally and internationally, as if the voice of that minority affected represents the voice of the majority.
Through you, I expect that the media would be able to deliver a more balanced coverage so that the public in the country and abroad would have comprehensive and contextual understanding about religious life in Indonesia. At the same time, I do hope that the majority in Indonesia, who have been silent all along, would express their views and opinions to better represent the voice of Indonesia.
Meanwhile, in combating terrorism, extremism, and militancy, the Indonesian Government, since the 2002 Bali Bombing and 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, has engaged actively in many cooperation to improve capacity building in countering terrorism. We are now even considered as a role model for other countries in combating terrorism.
TOT: After having tackled the sensitive yet most significant problem of recent developments in the world comity of nations – threats of extremism and unbridled militancy – we would like to have your impressions and opinion on the role Indonesia has played so far in terms of promoting democracy, freedom of speech and human rights on the regional as well as on the international level?
Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia has always put forward constructive efforts in the cooperation of promoting and protecting human rights, through various dialogues and international cooperation. Indonesia has a role in bridging different views and positions regarding human rights which are often vary between the developed countries and the developing countries. Indonesia, on one hand, supports the efforts to promote civil and political rights carried out by developed countries while on the other hand, continues to promote economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development which are the priorities of developing countries.
At the regional level, Indonesia puts forward the cooperation through ASEAN and supports the democratization process of the ASEAN member countries in accordance with the principle of non-interference. At the global level, this commitment is reflected by initiating the Bali Democracy Forum which convenes annually since 2008.
Democracy is a home-grown process, emerged from within the community in each country, and is a process that cannot be imposed by others. That is why Indonesia is of the view that democracy should deliver, meaning that it has to be accompanied by development which will be beneficial for the people’s welfare.
I wish to reiterate that democracy is reflected by the freedom of expression, which in Indonesia is guaranteed by Constitution and related laws. Bearing this, the Indonesian people are aware that the freedom of expression is not absolute as it cannot infringe the rights of others. We, Indonesians, adhere tolerance and rule of law and putting the principles into practice when we exercise the right to freedom of expression.
In the image above: US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama (L) meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani Yudhoyono (R) at the State Palace Complex Istana Merdeka in Jakarta Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
TOT: In a lighter vein Reverend Ambassador, you too must be quite informed and aware like most of our readers are about present US President Barack Hussain Obama’s growing up in Indonesia especially as an adolescent and a youth. Thus Obama has a bond with your motherland. Anything remarkable that you can share with us in this regard?
Ms. Esti Andayani: President Obama lived in Indonesia only for four years during his early childhood. However, he is still bounded with Indonesia and its people. He knows full well about Indonesia, its culture, values, motto, and he even could still speak Indonesian. All of these were well reflected within his lecture before the students of the University of Indonesia.
In that lecture, he compared the values of the United States and the values of Indonesia that turned out to have a lot of similarities. In the United States, E pluribus unum — out of many, one – has similar meaning with Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity. The United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values. Just like in the United States, the spirit of tolerance is also written into Indonesian Constitution; symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other.
He reminded us again about the Indonesian values which we ourselves sometimes often forget, Pancasila. Hearing that coming from such a prominent figure has really made us appreciates our own values even more.
He also mentioned that development is inseparable from the role of democracy. This is what our government is now doing, promotes development while at the same time building democracy. With all those shared values, we hope to further increase our close cooperation in various fields.
Other thing that impressed me and most of Indonesian people, is when President Obama mentioned that he was surprised to see how far Indonesia has developed ever since he left Jakarta. There was only one 5-starred hotel and a mall at that time, but now he saw many skyscrapers and malls in every corner of the city. I was also caught by surprised that President Obama still well remembered his Indonesian favorite food, satay and baso (meatballs).
TOT: Finally honourable Ambassador, would you like to give any message to the readers of The Oslo Times, who are constantly on the rise worldwide with each passing day?
Ms. Esti Andayani: The Oslo Times is an online media that is easy to be accessed by people all over the world. Online media has various timeliness, accuracy of the content and ability to deliver to the readers about various information, news and reports. Therefore, the readers should be smart and have a broad and open mind in choosing and digesting the news they are reading. I believe The Oslo Times have such good quality for an online media, just as its readers have good understanding towards the context of information contained. I hope by reading this article, your readers would have a better understanding and interest about Indonesia.
Thank you respected Ambassador. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!