Indonesia recalls ambassador over spy claims
Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia and will review all information exchanges and cooperation amid growing anger in Jakarta over fresh spying allegations.
The Indonesian government on Monday demanded a full explanation following revelations Australian spies targeted the mobile phones of the country’s president, his wife and other senior figures.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country’s ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema would return to Jakarta immediately to discuss the matter.
Dr Natalegawa has also foreshadowed the possibility of further actions on the diplomatic front, which he described as applying the “principal of reciprocity so that we have corresponding level and nature of cooperation.”
Asked if this meant Australian officials could be expelled, Dr Natalegawa said he would “not enter into who shall be leaving, who will not be leaving”.
“It is – I want to make it absolutely clear – an unfriendly act unbecoming of relations between strategic partners,” Dr Natalegawa said of the fresh claims of phone-tapping.
The comments came after more top secret documents relating to Australia’s spying operations were leaked by fugitive US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Defence Signals Directorate documents, obtained and published by the ABC and The Guardian, list 10 officials and their phone details – beginning with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and wife Ani.
Vice President Boediono and Indonesia’s former vice president Jusuf Kalla were also targeted.
The papers suggest the president’s mobile activity was tracked for 15 days and at least one eavesdropping attempt was made.
“This is not a clever thing to do. It’s not a smart thing to do,” Dr Natalegawa said.
“It violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of; national in Indonesia, national in Australia, international as well.”
Dr Natalegawa said the allegations, as well as others made recently that Australia’s embassy in Jakarta was part of a US-led spy network in the region, were “having a very serious impact on bilateral relations”.
“They should be able to say in a crystal clear, in the most clearest way possible, we are not in the business of tapping foreign leaders, or anyone,” he said.
“I have not used the word reprisal, I have not used the word expel. What I have simply said is that we are reviewing the state of Indonesia-Australia cooperation in the exchange of information.”
He suggested the Lombok Treaty would also be reviewed.
“I need quite desperately an explanation how a private conversation involving the president of the Republic of Indonesia, involving the first lady of the Republic of Indonesia, how they can even have a hint, even a hint of relevance impacting on the security of Australia,” he said.
“The ball now is very much in Australia’s court.”
Dr Natalegawa said he would attempt to call Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday night.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto earlier said Australia must give a public explanation and make a commitment that it would not monitor the phones again.
Australia’s deputy ambassador to Indonesia David Engel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day. He said he had “a very good meeting” when he emerged 20 minutes after arriving.
The latest spying allegations have also prompted an angry response from other members of the Indonesian political elite.
Mahfudz Siddiq, head of the Indonesian parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee and a member of the ruling coalition, said the president should review all cooperation with Australia.
“It’s clear that Australia is not a good neighbour, and even a threat,” he said.
The committee’s Deputy chairman, T.B. Hasanuddin, warned the allegations could lead to an explosion in anti-Australian sentiment.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the specific claims but defended Australia’s intelligence activities.
“All governments know that every other government gathers information,” he told parliament.
The prime minister said Australia uses all the resources at its disposal, including information, “to help our friends and our allies, not to harm them”.
“My first duty is to protect Australia and to advance our national interest and I will never ever depart from that,” he said.
“Consistent with that duty I will never say or do anything that might damage the strong relationship and the close cooperation that we have with Indonesia.”
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek, who was in the Labor government under whom the alleged phone tapping occurred, was circumspect in her comments.
“Indonesia is a close neighbour, trading partner, and good friend. Our relationship is important for our region,” Ms Plibersek said in a statement.
“Tony Abbott must work hard to reassure Indonesia of the Australian government’s goodwill.”