Boat agreement lapses
By Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta
Tuesday 30 October 2001
Indonesia has failed to renew a key agreement that allowed Australian and Indonesian police to cooperate directly on stemming the flow of illegal immigrants to Australia.
Senior police in Jakarta saw the agreement as putting too much responsibility on the national police organisation.
Indonesian police chief Brigadier-General Dadang Garnida told The Age yesterday that the way police cooperated on dealing with illegal immigrants in the future would depend on talks between the Indonesian Government and Australia.
Indonesia plans to hold an international summit, possibly next month, on ways to curb mostly Middle Eastern and south Asian asylum seekers staying illegally in Indonesia while trying to arrange boat trips to Australia.
Officials in Jakarta see the problem as an international one that should involve the country of origin, South-East Asian countries that are used as staging points and destination countries such as Australia.
Up to 5000 asylum seekers are believed to be in Indonesia now, and officials in Jakarta fear another flood following the Afghanistan bombing.
General Dadang said Indonesian police would still cooperate closely with Australian police, but instead of being able to deal directly with each other under a section of a Memorandum of Understanding, cooperation would be government to government. The section of the memorandum dealing with illegal immigrants has been extended every year since 1997, until it lapsed without publicity in early September.
Meanwhile, police in the eastern Indonesian island of Sumbawa said yesterday after questioning crew members of the Sinar Botang that the boat had not been hijacked. It had developed engine trouble and put ashore.