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INDONESIA: Shamed by Lack of Gratitude

Dorina Lisson (ACADP) | 23.02.2015 00:02 | Anti-racism | Culture | Social Struggles | World

What the Indonesians lack in the areas of humanity, equality and judicial fairness, they more than make up for in sheer audacity. This is not a country short on chutzpah.

Indonesia’s relationship with Australia is characterised by an unfailing recalcitrance that borders on aggression. They have no qualms about offending other nations and barely flinched when the Netherlands and Brazil recalled their ambassadors in disgust last month after Indonesia ignored their pleas for mercy and executed two of their citizens for drug trafficking.

Jakarta seems even less concerned about upsetting a charitable neighbour in Australia; one that turns a blind eye to the many misdemeanours committed by Indonesian citizens from facilitating the human trafficking trade to illegal fishing in our waters. It’s clear that Australia’s continued generosity hasn’t bought us much in the way of goodwill. Until recently, Australian politicians were hesitant to put public pressure on their Indonesian counterparts, fearing that a “loss of face” might affect any chance Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had of being granted clemency.

But diplomatic talk has given way to strongly worded public statements as political leaders come to the realisation that no amount of respectful representations will move the Indonesian authorities.

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reminded our northern neighbour of how generous Australia has been to its country and how we would feel “grievously let down” if it ignored our Government’s pleas for mercy.

"Let’s not forget that a few years ago when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent $1 billion worth of assistance, we sent a contingent of our armed forces to help in Indonesia with humanitarian relief,” Mr Abbott said. “Australians lost their lives in that campaign to help Indonesia.”

The Indonesians responded to this straightforward statement of fact with a predictable mixture of hysteria and hostility. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir chose to interpret the PM’s inoffensive commentary as a threat:

“There’s a saying in Indonesia, ‘orang akan terlihat warna sebenarnya’, (people will show their true colours),” he said. “So I hope this does not reflect, the statements made, the true colours of Australians.

“But what I know is this, threats are not part of diplomatic language ... and from what I know, no one responds well to threats.”

Mr Abbott didn’t attach any strings to the money Australia has donated to Indonesia but perhaps it is time he did. The $1 billion he referred to was not a one-off gift. Australia will give Indonesia more than $605 million in aid this year alone. Indeed, the country is the biggest beneficiary of Australia’s foreign aid program.

Many are wondering why taxpayers are financing such benevolence. Even Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has taken a break from her Abbott-hating tirades and harebrained attempts to reintroduce the death penalty to ask just why we continue to kowtow to the “two-faced” Indonesians.

“They’re over in other countries begging for leniency for their own people on the death penalty, yet they’re about to take two of ours out,” she said.

“Why the hell are we giving Indonesia $500 million? Why are we doing that?”

I was shocked as anyone to hear Senator Lambie talking sense but I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day, even if she was $105 million out with her figures.

Surely, the foreign aid we give comes with certain obligations, chief among them that the recipient not squander our hard-earned nor use it to promote practices that are at odds with core Australian values.

I, for one, would be interested to know if any of the money we give Indonesia to support their “law and justice sector” has found its way to Aceh which uses Islamic sharia law and plans to flog a woman who was raped by seven men.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has spoken repeatedly of the need to introduce greater accountability to the aid program.

It is naive, bordering on the idiotic, to think that foreign aid is merely a compassionate gesture. If foreign aid was purely determined by the level of need, then the billions we give Indonesia would be spent feeding, vaccinating and educating impoverished children.

By any sensible assessment, Australia’s aid program is also a means of improving relations internationally or, as Ms Bishop calls it, “economic diplomacy”.

Of course, Indonesia is not the only country in the region to benefit from Australia’s largesse, despite the Abbott Government putting a $5 billion cap on annual foreign aid spending. We also give generously to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand, Fiji, Vietnam, Mongolia, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vanuatu, Tonga and a host of other countries. Australian aid also reaches regions as far and wide as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

On top of the billions Australia has donated to Indonesia in recent years, our citizens pump millions more into the Indonesian economy. So it is perfectly reasonable to ask why we continue to give substantial sums of money to a country that consistently shows us nothing but contempt.

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Dorina Lisson (ACADP)
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  1. PULL THE BLOODY FOREIGN AID — Concerned Australian