Markus Junianto Sihaloho
The country’s top naval official said on Sunday that Indonesia would provide training and possibly sell equipment to East Timor’s Navy as part of a broadening of defense ties between the former enemies.
A verbal agreement for naval assistance comes as East Timor prepares next week to mark the 10th anniversary of its independence referendum, when Indonesian military units and pro-Jakarta militias killed more than 1,000 people in an outbreak of violence after the Timorese overwhelmingly voted to split from Indonesia on Aug. 30, 1999.
Speaking to journalists in Jakarta, Navy Chief Adm. Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said he had discussed a broad agreement with senior Timorese naval officials during the 2009 Indonesian Fleet Review in North Sulawesi.
In the discussion, Tedjo said he was told East Timor’s Navy was developing much more slowly than officials expected from the bilateral support being provided by other countries.
“That is why they are now planning to ask for assistance from Indonesia,” Tedjo said.
Tedjo said he had informed the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the request from East Timor, which is also known as Timor Leste.
“And I told the officials from Timor Leste that this cooperation needs a legal umbrella by the defense ministers of both countries,” Tedjo said. “The defense ministers would establish a memorandum of understanding as a legal umbrella.”
Through the agreement, he said, the naval component of the East Timor Defense Force would learn from Indonesian counterparts how to train new recruits, improve officers’ capacity through a staff and command academy, as well as naval strategies.
“And maybe we would help them to buy patrol ships from Indonesian shipbuilders,” Tedjo said. “Who knows, maybe through this cooperation we can help our national defense industry.”
Jaleswari Pramowardhani, a military analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), praised the plan, saying it would improve relations between the neighbors.
She said Indonesia was obligated to help ensure security cooperation among Southeast Asian nations, including East Timor.
“Each country in the region, particularly Indonesia, needs to create good relationships and avoid any conflicts among them,” Jaleswari said. “And as neighboring countries, Indonesia and Timor Leste need cooperative ties as much as possible.”
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, but renounced its claim on the former Portuguese colony in October 1999, around a month after its last military troops left the territory to United Nations-backed peacekeepers. East Timor became an independent state in 2002.