Arientha Primanita & Farouk Arnaz
Australia and Indonesia agreed on Tuesday to work more closely to crack down on people-smuggling, with visiting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono saying his people were too often becoming victims of the trade.
That has been a main focus of the talks between Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, with boatpeople coming to Australia mostly via transit ports in Indonesia. Scores of asylum-seekers have drowned en route in recent weeks.
Gillard said Australia and Indonesia had cooperated strongly to combat people-smuggling and were discussing greater maritime collaboration.
Yudhoyono also welcomed the release of underage Indonesian nationals who had been held in Australian jails after being detained as crew on board people-smuggling vessels.
“They are also victims of acts of people-smuggling, and no doubt we hope that the release of the remaining underage seafarers can be accelerated,” the president said through an interpreter.
More than 90 people are thought to have died when two crowded asylum-seeker boats sank off the Australian territory of Christmas Island near Java in recent weeks.
On June 21, 110 people were saved but an estimated 90 drowned. In the second sinking, 130 were rescued but four people were lost.
On Tuesday, authorities in Indonesia said they had arrested a suspected people-smuggling ringleader believed to be responsible for the June incident.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anang Iskandar identified the suspect as Daood Amiri, a Pakistani who had been living in Indonesia for two years.
Amiri was arrested in a Jakarta apartment on Friday after police obtained information from Sadiq, a people-smuggler who survived the June sinking. Sadiq is currently being detained by Australian authorities in Christmas Island.
Meanwhile, Indonesia is looking to increase its economic and business cooperation
with Australia, which earlier pledged more investment in eastern
Indonesia, Yudhoyono told an Australia-Indonesia Business Council
luncheon in Darwin.
the combination of internal and external factors, the economic growth
of the two countries will only grow stronger in the future,” Yudhoyono
Indonesia-Australia trade grew by 11.3 percent in 2011,
reaching $10.76 billion. In 2011, Australia was the 14th largest
investor in Indonesia.
Yudhoyono said Indonesia’s Master Plan on
Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) provided an
excellent partnership opportunity for trade and investment.
president also said that Indonesia’s geography, demographics, political
stability, democracy, economic strength and competitive labor could help
“Make Indonesia your hub for production
and innovation,” he said. “Having plants, factories, and business
centers in Indonesia will open bigger markets for your business.”
said there was strategic value in developing regions like Bali, Nusa
Tenggara, Maluku and Papua together with Australia’s Northern Territory.
He cited opportunities for investment in the mining, cattle,
agriculture, fisheries, and tourism sectors.
president, who has been in Darwin since Monday, was attending the annual
leaders meeting with Gillard.
Indonesia also proposed joint military disaster exercises with Australia and the United States, a sign of easing concerns in Jakarta over American’s stationing of troops in northern Australia.
Australia has promoted the US Marines’ presence in Darwin as potentially useful for emergency relief in future disasters or emergencies, such as the 2002 Bali bombings or the 2004 tsunami.
Additional reporting from AFP & Reuters