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Downer confirms Kopassus still has terrorism links.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Further information: Kevin Rudd on 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823


And Downer says he’ll sift out the good guys in Kopassus from the bad guys - and we’ll only be dealing with the good guys!

Australian foreign policy reached a state of high farce in the Parliament today when Foreign Minister Downer confirmed his Government would be re-establishing links with an organisation it knows has had links with terrorist organisations.

In question time today, in vintage Downeresque, the Foreign Minster stated:

Whilst I’m not aware of any TNI policy of cooperation with Laskar Jihad, an organisation which Laskar Jihad claims to have disbanded itself on 14 October 2002, individuals in TNI appear to have had contact with Laskar Jihad members. …And for the benefit of the House let me make two other points about that. First of all, Kopassus is part of TNI, so Mr Speaker there is no question of that. And I did say that in talking to Kopassus Unit 81, we’ll limit our cooperation to exclude those people we know to have links to Laskar Jihad and other violent groups or who have been involved in serious human rights abuses.

The Opposition has been asking the Government to clarify whether advice provided to the Senate nine months ago that Kopassus had links with terrorist organisations is still valid.

Far from giving Kopassus a clean bill of health, Mr Downer proceeded in Parliament to outline that there was still a problem with Kopassus’ links with terrorist organisations like Laskar Jihad.

This is absolutely extraordinary: a Government arguing it will further the fight against terrorism in Indonesia - by linking up with an organisation that has itself been linked with terrorism.

And what was Foreign Minister Downer’s novel response to dealing with this dilemma? Mr Downer says he will now pick and choose which Kopassus staff Australia will now have links with - separating out those who have been associated with Lasker Jihad in the past and those who have been responsible for “human rights abuses”.

How on earth does Mr Downer intend to do this? Just how practical a policy is it? What operating principles will Mr Downer apply? How will Mr Downer know that a given Kopassus operative has in the past been involved in covert operations with Laskar Jihad, given Kopassus is an organisation of 5,500 people?

Neither Mr Downer nor Mr Howard have explained why they sat on their hands in the 10 months since the Bali bombing and not responded to Indonesian National Police requests to assist them in acquiring better counter-terrorism capabilities. Why has this time been wasted?

And notwithstanding the Government’s failure to act on this in the preceding 10 months, what resources will the Government now dedicate to this task? Ends. 12 August 2003