Wed, 12 Mar 2003

RI, Australia to bolster efforts on antiterrorism

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Dadan Wijaksana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia and Australia pledged on Tuesday to continue cooperation in suppressing all forms of terrorism and to bring to justice perpetrators of such acts.

A joint statement signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda and his counterpart Alexander Downer said that terrorism was a transnational threat that could be combated through a comprehensive approach and close cooperation in bilateral, regional, and multilateral forums.

"Australia and Indonesia reaffirm their commitment to working together to prevent and suppress all forms of terrorist acts and to bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice," the statement said.

Following the deadly Bali bombing last Oct. 12, which killed 202 people, including 89 Australians, Indonesia and Australia signed an agreement allowing the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to join the investigation into the incident.

Close to 30 people have been arrested as suspects, some of whom will be brought to court in April, including principal suspects Amrozi and Abdul Azis alias Imam Samudra.

Amrozi has admitted purchasing chemical materials used in the bombing, while Imam Samudra has been charged with masterminding the terrorist attacks. Both face the death sentence under the newly endorsed terrorism bill.

"Indonesia and Australia have recognized the need to join together to fight terrorism with all available means including within the framework of our agreement.

"The value of joint efforts was clearly reflected in the success of the investigation into the Bali bombings," the statement said.

Downer was in Jakarta to attend a ministerial forum on Tuesday, which brought the two countries closer especially in dealing with terrorism.

Canberra has repeatedly expressed appreciation to the Indonesian police for their prompt and effective investigation into the case.

Last week, National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar visited Australia on Canberra's invitation in appreciation of the police's hard work.

"Australia is very happy now with the way the relationship is working," Downer said in the press conference after the signing of the statement.

The two countries also labeled proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as terrorist acts and acknowledged the valuable role of the United Nations in fighting this as well as their commitment to support these efforts.

Tuesday's meeting -- the sixth conference of Cabinet members since the forum was established in 1992-- also featured commitments from both sides to boost economic ties.

According to Minister of Industry and Trade Rini M. Soewandi, despite the ups and downs in political ties, the economic ties between the two countries have been encouraging.

In fact last year, total exports and imports between the two reached a record high.

Last year, total trading between the two reached A$7.4 billion, with Indonesia's exports to Australia valued at A$4.3 billion, placing Australia as Indonesia's 12th largest export destination.