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Joko Widodo Indonesia President downplays rift with Australia over suspension of military ties

The military in Indonesia recently announced it had suspended cooperation with the Australian Defence Force.

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Indonesian President-Joko Widodo play

Indonesian President-Joko Widodo


Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday said relations with Australia remained good despite suspension of military education cooperation between the two countries.

The military in Indonesia announced it had suspended cooperation with the Australian Defence Force over the use of teaching materials at an Australian military training centre which were deemed insulting to the country.

“I think our relationship with Australia is fine.

“Maybe at the operational level there are things that needed to be sorted out to avoid further tensions,’’ Widodo said.

The country’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, also downplayed the controversy, saying “obscure people should not be allowed to spoil relations with Australia.’’

Senior security minister Wiranto clarified that the suspension was only limited to the Indonesian language programme for Australian special forces.

“Contrary to recent media reports, it is not the suspension of all defence cooperation,’’ he said.

Armed Forces Chief General, Gatot Nurmantyo, said the decision was taken after an Indonesian military teacher at an Australian base in Perth found materials that discredited the Indonesian military, the Indonesian nation and even the state ideology Pancasila.

He said there were also criticism of the military’s past human rights records and suggestions that Papua, where a separatist insurgency against Jakarta’s rule had been brewing for decades, should be given independence.

“Australian Defence Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin has sent a letter of apology and promised to investigate the matter,’’ Nurmantyo said.

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said some concerns were raised by an Indonesian officer last month “about some teaching materials and remarks at an army language training facility in Australia.’’

Relations between Indonesia and Australia are often testy.

In 2013, Indonesia suspended military and intelligence cooperation with Australia after it was revealed that Australian spies had monitored then President Susilo Yudhoyono’s phone and that of members of his inner circle, including his wife.

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