Indonesia on Wednesday lashed out at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in response to his statement that stopping asylum boats was a matter of Australian sovereignty.
Djoko Suyanto, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said that Australia had violated Indonesian sovereignty and that the archipelago would step up its maritime patrols following Abbott's Tuesday statement in Davos, Switzerland.
“The Australian government, under the leadership of PM Tonny Abbott, must also understand the meaning of the Republic of Indonesia’s sovereignty, which has been easily violated by the Australian Navy,” Djoko said in an email to journalists.
He said that the Australian Navy had violated Indonesia’s territory in sending asylum-seeker boats back into Indonesian waters.
Indonesia is a popular transit point for those fleeing to Australia from war-torn or poverty-stricken Middle Eastern and African nations and from Myanmar.
Indonesia-Australia cooperation on asylum seeker management has been suspended since last year in the wake of a diplomatic row between the two countries after a leaked report revealed that Australia, under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2009, had wiretapped the phone conversations of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his inner circle.
In Davos, Abbott insisted that Indonesia must come to understand Australia’s policy of turning back asylum boats in order to curb the flow of asylum seekers entering Australia, which was among his key promises in last year's election.
“Stopping the boats is a matter of sovereignty and President Yudhoyono of all people ought to understand, does understand, just how seriously countries take their sovereignty,” Abbott told reporters in Davos. "So we will continue to do what we are entitled to do to secure our borders.”
Djoko responded: “Sending back asylum seekers who have already entered any country, including Australia, should be managed and taken care of by that country in accordance with the UN convention mandate.”
“Indonesia will keep stepping up maritime patrols in order to prevent similar incidents from happening,” he added.