The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media release 

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
30 May 2000

Address by the Hon Alexander Downer MP to the Ceremony for the Presentation of Certificates for the "Policy Analysis and Advocacy Training for Indonesian NGO Leaders" Course, Parliament House, 30 May 2000

I would like to welcome the fifteen participants of the policy and advocacy training course who have travelled to Australia from several provinces in Indonesia.

Australia recognises the tremendous transition towards democracy that has been underway in Indonesia over the past two years. It is a Herculean undertaking that requires courage and perseverance. For the first time in over thirty years Indonesia has a democratically elected and functioning Parliament. In the short period since its formation less than a year ago, the Parliament has developed a vigorous system of committees which have strengthened parliamentary accountability.

Of course, no one expects that such a major transition will happen quickly, or easily We recognise that the challenges which remain will take time to implement: judicial, bureaucratic, and administrative reform; the civilianisation of the military; and economic restructuring and reform. But we also acknowledge that significant progress

The changes in the central administration of Indonesia are echoed in aspirations for greater autonomy in a number of regions. Recently passed legislation (Laws 22 and 25 of 1999) will devolve considerable administrative responsibility to the district level, and will allow a greater amount of the revenue raised by provinces to stay in those provinces. These are positive changes which will lead to greater responsibility and choice for communities at the local level, and which Australia is actively supporting through technical assistance to achieve its effective implementation.

Australians have been disturbed by reports of unrest in some parts of Indonesia, including violent clashes and casualties. The Australian Government wants to make it quite clear that it fully and unequivocally supports the sovereignty of Indonesia and its territorial integrity. Australia was the first country to recognise the Republic of Indonesia in 1949 and remains committed to supporting a strong, independent, united nation. At the same time, we continue to urge a peaceful resolution of the regional conflicts. Any view that violence is a solution to political and social problems is misguided. We urge restraint by all parties, and for lasting solutions to be found through dialogue and negotiation.

I am aware that this week the People's Congress of Papua is convening for five days in Jayapura and that nearly 3000 representatives from across the province are attending. We welcome the fact that community leaders have been allowed to gather together to discuss community affairs, and that they can do so in peace. We support the efforts of the Indonesian government and the personal efforts of President Wahid and Vice President Megawati to address the concerns of the West Papuan people. Australia has always and continues to support and to recognise the integration of West Papua within the Republic of Indonesia. The Australian Government has provided $121 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Indonesia over the past year, our second largest contribution to a single country,

which is a concrete indication of our firm support for Indonesia's stability and further democratisation. An important component of that assistance is directed at strengthening Indonesia's fledgling democratic institutions and underpinning the development of good governance. And we will be maintaining this level of commitment over the coming year. Programs such as this policy and advocacy training program for Indonesian civil society organisations, run by the Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) and the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA), and sponsored by the Australia Indonesia Institute, are good examples of this approach.

I hope that you have been enjoying yourselves in Australia and that you have found the course stimulating and valuable, and that you make long-term friendships with your Australian counterparts. I encourage you to share your experiences with your colleagues back in Indonesia.

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