Indonesia Foreign minister Marty Natalegawa; Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro; and head of state intelligence agency BIN, Marciano Norman wait to answer questions on spying before the Indonesian Parliament. Photo: Michael Bachelard
Indonesia has outlined a long and involved process before its proposed intelligence “code of ethics” can be signed, suggesting it may be mid to late next year before co-operation on people smuggling, terrorism and military exercises can resume.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that before the relationship between the two countries gets back to normal, he wants a new code of ethics on intelligence drawn up and implemented.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott suggested that a “round table” could be formed to discuss these matters.
But Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa made it clear on Thursday that the intelligence protocol would need to be negotiated and then signed by the two leaders at a bilateral meeting.
The timetable for leaders' meetings suggests optimism in Australia for a swift return of the Indonesian ambassador and the normalisation of the relationship is misplaced.
The next bilateral leaders' meeting is not scheduled until late in 2014.
The two leaders also meet on the sidelines of numerous other international forums such as APEC, the G20, the United Nations and the East Asia Forum. There are about six such meetings a year, but most have already occurred.
The leaders can also arrange an ad hoc meeting, if Indonesia agrees, but much of next year in Indonesia will be consumed by parliamentary and presidential elections, and the political atmosphere is likely to be hot.
Mr Natalegawa yesterday outlined in more detail President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's six-step process to developing the code of ethics.
He said that only the first part of the first step — talks between ministers to discuss “sensitive issues on bilateral relations post-revelation of this tapping issue” — has been fulfiled.
Mr Natalegawa confirmed that he had spoken with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to outline the current state of bilateral relations “as a precondition towards a stepping stone to discussing a code of conduct”.
The second step was negotiating a protocol; the third was for the Indonesian President to consider the protocol and endorse it; the fourth for it to be signed by the two leaders.
Mr Natalegawa said these were the two crucial steps.
The fifth step is implementing the protocol with “time to allow for evaluation that is has been implemented”. Step six is: “Re-establishment and revival of a sense of trust before we can proceed to look at the bilateral co-operations”.
“I've been in this job sufficiently long to know it's not wise to have a timeline or a deadline, but we'll look at the third and fourth steps the President has mentioned, that he himself will be going through the code of conduct and that he and the Prime Minister wish to be witnesses to the signing of this code of conduct,” he said.
“So I guess this should suggest to you the kind of timeline that we have in mind.”
According to the Australian Foreign Ministry website, the next bilateral leaders' meeting is not due between the two countries until "late 2014''.
President Yudhoyono's term ends mid next year, and he cannot recontest the election. A new president will be signed in in October or November.
Mr Natalegawa's comments came before he, the Defence Minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, the head of intelligence agency BIN, Marciano Norman, and national police chief Sutarman addressed the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs on the spying issue.
The chair of the committee, Tubagus Hasanudin, said he believed the new code of ethics would not answer all Indonesia's concerns.
“I think it is good idea but still we need to protect our own communication system,” he said.
The protocol should bind the parties and include punishments in case of beaches.
Asked if it could restore trust between the two nations, Mr Tubagus said: “Oh yes, because actually the intelligence co-operation between Indonesia and Australia is very good, especially on terrorism.”