Indonesia demands Australia suspend ‘boatpeople’ operation

By Presi Mandari AFP

JAKARTA –Indonesia on Friday demanded Australia suspend its military-led operation to halt the flow of asylum-seekers in a furious response after Canberra apologized for intrusions by its navy into Indonesian waters. Jakarta also pledged to step up navy patrols in its southern maritime borders, saying it “deplores and rejects the violation of its sovereignty” caused by the Australian incursions. It came after Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison expressed regret after revealing that navy vessels had “inadvertently” violated Indonesian waters during border security operations.

However he pledged the government would pursue its hardline policies to halt asylum-seeker boats. Asylum-seekers arriving on unauthorized boats in Australia, often via Indonesia, are a sensitive issue for both sides, and Canberra’s military-led Operation Sovereign Borders to clamp down on them has raised concerns in Jakarta.

The revelations about the Australian naval incursions added to tensions between the neighbors, already strained by a dispute over spying, with Jakarta responding furiously.

The ministry for political, legal and security affairs issued a statement saying that the naval incursions “constitute a serious matter in bilateral relations of the two countries.” The ministry also demanded a halt to Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders until assurances are received there will not be a repeat of such violations. “Indonesia demands that such operations conducted by the Australian government that led to this incident be suspended until further clarification is received,” it said. Jakarta said it would “intensify its maritime patrols,” sending an extra naval ship to patrol its southern maritime borders around the island of Timor.