Thu, 11 Dec 2003

RI must explain ASC to ASEAN members: Expert

Abdul Khalik The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The concept of the ASEAN Security Community (ASC), which was proposed by Indonesia and included in Bali Concord II, a declaration issued at the end of the ASEAN Summit in October 2003, should be clarified further so that other ASEAN member countries can fully accept its implementation, an expert says.

"There is a lack of clarity over ASC because Indonesia has not adequately explained the concept. This unclear message can be seen in the concord, which has many contradictions and loopholes," said CSIS director of studies Rizal Sukma on the sidelines of the conference of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) here on Tuesday.

He pointed out that Indonesia, on the one hand, proposed conflict resolution and peace building as mechanisms in ASC but on the other hand did not want to modify the noninterference principle inherited from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) founding fathers.

ASEAN's noninterference principle states that each ASEAN member country should respect the sovereignty of other member nations and prohibits intervention by member countries.

"The noninterference principle that we inherited from the first concord is so rigid. We should make it flexible so that internal security problems can be discussed without creating misunderstanding among ASEAN members," said Rizal.

He then proposed that Indonesia should elaborate on ASC principles in the Bali concord such as norm-setting, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace building so that other members could understand the concept better.

"Indonesia should explain what is norm-setting. If we make the noninterference principle flexible then we must make sure that interference doesn't occur in an arbitrary way and without the consent of the respective country," Rizal added.

The same goes with the other principles. Indonesia must explain what conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post- conflict peace building mean as well as their respective activities, he said.

"For example, what mechanism do we apply in conflict resolution and conflict prevention? Are the current mechanisms enough?" said Rizal.

He argued that the ASC should be pursued because every member country would benefit from its implementation.

"Within this community, every potential conflict can be prevented and solved in a peaceful way," he said.

He also stressed that this community would also facilitate problem solving among the members through formal and legal channels, not merely through political avenues.

"Currently, security cooperation between ASEAN member countries is carried out in informal bilateral or trilateral relations," said Rizal.

He said that the plan of action was currently being formulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hoped this plan would be completed by the time Jakarta hosted the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in June next year.