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MP plans trade freeze over visa 'backstabbing'
By foreign affairs editor Peter Cave


Visa anger: A senior Indonesian MP says Australia cannot be trusted. (File photo)
A leading figure in Indonesia's Golkar Party says the parliament will be pushing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to freeze diplomatic relations with Australia and to expel the Australian Ambassador.

Indonesia has already withdrawn its ambassador to Australia, after 42 asylum seekers from the Indonesian province of Papua were granted temporary protection visas.

Golkar deputy secretary general Priyo Budi Santoso says more action is necessary because the dispute over the asylum seekers has shown that Australia cannot be trusted.

Golkar hold the largest block of seats in the House of Representatives.

The Indonesian news agency Antara quotes him as saying Australia has stabbed Indonesia in the back by granting 42 Papuans temporary protection visas.

He says he will give the Indonesian Government one or two weeks to act, before seeking the support of other Members of Parliament to implement a diplomatic and trade freeze on Australia.

The asylum seekers' case has ruined Indonesia's trust in Australia, he says.

Indonesia to snub Nias memorial service
Tuesday Mar 28 Top Indonesian officials won't attend a memorial service for nine Australians killed in last year's relief helicopter crash on earthquake-hit Nias Island as anger mounts over the visas granted to Papuan separatists.

A senior Indonesian military spokesman also said plans for Sunday's anniversary ceremony had not been approved and it might not take place at all.

Separately, demonstrators have daubed obscenities on the walls of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in protest.

They wrote "Australia F***" and "Leave Indonesia now" in red paint on the grey walls of the embassy compound on Monday night.

An embassy spokeswoman said about a dozen paramilitary police and security staff, some wearing kevlar combat vests and helmets, did nothing to stop the vandals because they did not pose "a real threat to the embassy".

Around 30 family members from Australia are expected to join defence personnel including Maritime Commander Rear-Admiral Davyd Thomas and Ambassador Bill Farmer for the service in Tuindrao village, near the west coast of Nias.

Just 12 months ago the tragedy brought the two countries and their governments close together in grief over the ultimate sacrifice paid by young Australians trying to help disaster-hit Indonesians.

But it is a different story in the wake of visas given to 42 Papuan asylum seekers.

Diplomatic relations are strained with Indonesia's ambassador called home from Canberra amid calls by nationalists for tougher action against Australia.

Military and government officials in Jakarta seemed, at best, uninterested in Sunday's service.

"We don't know if we are sending anyone yet," the Indonesian defence department's chief of international relations, Colonel Wahyu Suhendar, told AAP.

The deputy spokesman for the military, Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki, said the whole event was still under a cloud, although he refused to say why and whether the uncertainty was linked to the Papua row.

"At the moment the event has not been cleared," he said.

"There is no certainty on whether it's going to be held or not, and that's all I'll say."

Provincial military chiefs in the north Sumatra capital Medan said they had not been instructed to send anyone and were unaware the memorial was even taking place, despite the looming arrival of an Australian warship in Indonesian waters.

Following a massive earthquake on the island on March 28 last year, the ageing navy Sea King, codenamed Shark 02, was flying a rescue mission with 11 medical personnel and air crew from HMAS Kanimbla when it cartwheeled into the ground and burst into flames.

A crash inquiry has heard a bolt fell out of the helicopter's flight control system.

Only two passengers survived, communications specialist Shane Warburton and paramedic Scott Nicholls, who were dragged from the burning wreck by local villagers.

Still grieving family members of the victims will travel to the dusty football field where the crash occurred on board an air force C-130 Hercules and HMAS Tobruk, before joining local Indonesian officials in Tuindrao to dedicate a new memorial.

Letters requesting senior Indonesian brass to attend were sent several months ago by the Australian embassy in Jakarta to the chiefs of the navy, air force and army, as well as the foreign ministry.

The letters were sent on to the office of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who last year joined Prime Minister John Howard on the tarmac at Sydney Airport as the bodies of the nine Australians were flown home.

They were posthumously given Indonesian medals and an honour guard.

An Australian embassy spokeswoman said Canberra had not expected "the panglima", or head of the military, to attend the service.

Fiery nationalist MP and foreign affairs commission member Djoko Susilo, who has in recent days lashed out at Canberra over the Papuans, said anger in Jakarta should not extend to the Nias service.

"This is a separate case, a humanitarian case," he told AAP.

"I don't see any problem with humanitarian deeds."

But he said Mr Howard should apologise to Indonesia over the visa issue and show more sensitivity to Jakarta.

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