President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has told Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Papua is an integral part of Indonesia as his administration continues to receive heavy criticism for its inability to resolve the violence plaguing its easternmost province.
Australian civil society groups staged a rally outside the building where the leaders met in Darwin on Tuesday, demanding Gillard pressure Yudhoyono to prosecute those behind recent deadly shootings in Papua and end a ban on international media reporting from the region.
Yudhoyono said on Wednesday that Gillard and Paul Henderson, the head of the Northern Territory, which Darwin is the capital of, expressed their full support for Indonesia’s territorial integrity.
“I told them Papua is Indonesia’s legal territory and that we will continue to do everything we can to bring prosperity and justice to Papuans,” he was quoted as saying by www.setkab.go.id, the official website of the cabinet.
“Their response was clear. Both of them support Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty,” the president said before leaving the Australian city for Sumba Island in East Nusa Tenggara.
He said Indonesian diplomacy in the Pacific would always be geared toward seeking support for the country’s territorial integrity from countries in the region.
Under the Lombok Treaty signed by Jakarta and Canberra in 2006, the Australian government acknowledged Indonesia’s territorial integrity. Rights activists and opposition groups in Australia have continued to support the independence of Papua from Indonesia.
A recent spate of shootings in Papua that have left dozens of civilians dead have put Yudhoyono’s administration under more pressure from the international community, Indonesian civil society groups and Papuan church leaders.
Observers said that Australia’s support on the issue would help Yudhoyono fend off further demands to allow Papua to break away from Indonesia.
Hariyadi Wirawan, an international relations expert from the University of Indonesia, said Indonesia and Australia needed each other to solve their problems.
Australia, he said, will want Indonesia’s cooperation in stopping the influx of asylum seekers, while Indonesia will seek assurances that Australia will not change its policy of supporting Indonesia’s claim over its restive regions.
“Yudhoyono will ask for more … investment and support on Papua while Gillard will ask Indonesia to help stop boat people,” Hariyadi said.
Australia has been trying to find a way to deal with people smugglers who bring asylum seekers to Australia. Most refugee boats depart from Indonesia.