Indonesia urges Australia, US to come clean on spying

JAKARTA - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on the United States and Australian governments to stop their spying activities from their embassies in Jakarta or risk damaging their relations with Indonesia.

"The President has asked that wiretapping never happens again. We will also fix the state information system," presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Wednesday.

Julian said, quoting Yudhoyono, that if the wiretapping continued, the US and Australian governments could put their relations with Indonesia in jeopardy.

"As a sovereign country, Indonesia, along with these countries [US and Australia] must respect formal cooperation frameworks. This [alleged wiretapping] has damaged our trust in them," Julian said.

Julian also said that the President was still waiting for official explanations from the US and Australian governments regarding their alleged surveillance programs in the country before deciding on what action he would take in response.

Relations between Indonesia and the two countries has come under pressure following a Sydney Morning Herald report that the US and Australia set up surveillance facilities at their embassies in Jakarta, as well as other countries across East and Southeast Asia, citing a document from US whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The Foreign Ministry officially summoned the top US diplomat in Jakarta, interim Charg? d'Affaires Kristen Bauer, on Oct. 31 and Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty on Nov. 1 to request explanations about the programme.

The Australian and US envoys reportedly neither denied nor confirmed the eavesdropping operations.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa previously expressed disappointment with the US' and Australia's wiretapping operations in Indonesia, emphasizing that although countries might have the technical capability to intercept and conduct surveillance activities on any country, such an operation could damage the trust between countries.

He has also vowed to co-sponsor an anti-spying resolution at the United Nations.

Marty is expected to meet his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, in Bali during the Bali Democracy Forum later this week.

Bishop has denied any rift between Australia and Indonesia.

"I don't accept that there has been a rift," Bishop said as quoted by Agence France-Presse as she departed for Jakarta to attend the Bali Democracy Forum on Wednesday, adding that she looked forward to having a productive discussion with Marty and other Indonesian ministers during her visit.

"The bilateral cooperation that exists between our two countries in areas such as people-smuggling and counterterrorism is of mutual benefit, of mutual advantage to both countries, and that will continue to be the case," she emphasised.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro is also expected to discuss the issue with Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith, who is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Thursday.

Separately, lawmakers from the House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing defence and foreign affairs urged the government to step up its vigilance ahead of the 2014 presidential election.

Commission I deputy chairman Tubagus Hasanuddin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said that foreign countries could steal sensitive information regarding political manoeuvring ahead of the elections.

Tubagus called on the National Encryption Agency (Lemsaneg), which is responsible for securing state secrets, to improve its work.

If necessary, Tubagus said that the government could summon Snowden to get more detailed information.

"We must take an active role to look for evidence on the allegations, and this might include direct communication with the whistle-blower [Snowden]," Tubagus said.