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Transcript of doorstop interview: Bali Regional Counter-Terrorism Conference: 5 February 2005. \n



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MEDIA DOORSTOP

HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN

BALI REGIONAL COUNTER-TERRORISM CONFERENCE

THURSDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2004

DATE: February 5 2004

TITLE: Doorstop on completion of Ministerial Retreat

Mr Downer: We have just completed the retreat, which is obviously an important part of this meeting and we are going into the last session after lunch, but that is really just the wind-up session. We are very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. The commitment is there to strengthen regional counter-terrorism capabilities.

I think there is a two-fold feeling here, on the one hand mechanisms are being put in place by regional institutions by ASEAN, Pacific Islands Forum and so on, APEC as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum, but there is scant coordination between them and little knowledge outside each of those institutions as to what those institutions are doing. The second thing is that there is still some concern that the legal arrangements, the legal frameworks, both within individual countries and between countries are inadequate to deal with terrorism. Between countries there are questions like extradition questions, obtaining evidence for prosecutions and how that can be done. There are problems with the sharing of information within countries. Questions about how adequate anti-terrorism laws are. Of course, they always have to be balanced with human rights and civil liberty issues. I am not going to give you a list of countries obviously, that might cause more concern than others, but there are questions about that.

So, what we have agreed to do is to set up two workings groups. One of those working groups is going to look at ways of strengthening legal cooperation and that is looking at those issues that I have just been talking about. The second working group is going to be a working group, if you like, of practitioners looking at best practice policing with particular emphasis on police and to some extent intelligence agencies and it is going to help with the development of regional counter-terrorism centres.

Now we and the Indonesians, with the support of other countries and with the unanimous endorsement of the meeting, are setting up what we call the Indonesian Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation. We will be putting 38.3 million dollars over five years into

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that Centre. It will be headed by an Indonesian and about twenty Australians will work in it. Its task will be particularly focusing on police and will build on the enormously successful cooperation that already exists between the Australian and Indonesian Police. Its task will not only be to help with training, and it will help with training for ourselves obviously, but for those in the region who want to take advantage of this resource, and we think many countries in the region will, and secondly to provide assistance with particular tasks. So, a particular police force from the region can come to the Centre and say they have got a certain problem in relation to dealing with a terrorist organisation or an incident and this Centre can provide assistance, particularly advice and ideas on how to handle that.

Now this will be set up in concert with the South East Asian Centre for Counter-Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur, we obviously don’t what to set up in competition to that it would just be a complete waste of resources to do that, and indeed the heads of the Indonesian Centre and the Kuala Lumpur Centre, as well as another international centre which deals more with trans-boundary crimes such as drug trafficking based in Bangkok, they will participate in the working group on the cooperation of law enforcement authorities. So, we are extremely pleased with the progress that has been made with this meeting. I think it has been a real catalyst to getting the countries of the Asia Pacific Region to think together as a broader region, rather than just within the smaller regional groupings on how to handle the issue of terrorism because, to use the phrase which is a statement of the obvious, terrorism can’t be handled by any one country, it has to be handled right across the board. We are pleased, by the way, that Attorney-General Ashcroft came to the meeting and the Americans have made a very valuable contribution and I think that has given America’s particular role in the war against terrorism, the fact that they have made such a strong contribution to this meeting is particularly well appreciated through the region and obviously appreciated by us.

Journalist: Is Australia footing the entire bill for this Centre?

Mr Downer: Obviously the Indonesians are going to provide resources as well. You know, they provide the building and things like that. They are going to put some money in early on to give it critical momentum, but the idea is that this will be a regional Centre, this won’t just be an Indonesia Australia Centre.

Journalist: Are other countries going to put in resources, such as personnel?

Mr Downer: They are not going to immediately, but we will be building that up over time.

Journalist: The positioning of this Centre in Semarang, Central Java, Central Java is seen as JI territory, a JI stronghold, is that deliberate?

Mr Downer: No, that is just where the police training is done. In any case, that’s the reason it has been put there.

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Journalist: Minister, can I just ask you to recap on that, what this Centre will be doing?

Mr Downer: Yes, the Centre will essentially be helping with the training, in particular of police, through the region and the Centre will focus very much on providing assistance to police in the region in dealing with particular terrorist organisations or terrorist incidents.

Journalist: Who are the personnel from Australia?

Mr Downer: There will be about twenty Australians who will work there initially. They will mainly be from the Federal Police. There will be some lawyers, as well, from the Attorney-General’s area, but they will be predominantly Federal Police. What this Centre is doing is building on the already outstanding and familiar cooperation between the Australians and Indonesian Police that came out of the Bali bombing.

Journalist: Exactly what are the differences with the Kuala Lumpur Centre, it does seem that there is a bit of duplication. Can you clarify that?

Mr Downer: The Kuala Lumpur Centre focuses more on the academic side, it doesn’t involve police. The particular focus here is on police, police training and operational matters and how the police operate. The Kuala Lumpur Centre is much more broad-brush and has a more academic approach. Obviously, we will be making sure that not only the two Centres are coordinated, but that they will be able to cooperate with each other, so there will be a certain amount of movement over time, no doubt, between the two.

Journalist: Will the Australian Federal Police, who are at the Centre, will they have an active investigative role looking at JI cells, looking at the indoctrination of young Indonesian men, will it be that kind of activity?

Mr Dower: If they asked, they could be involved in that sort of activity, there is no question of that. Obviously, in the investigations there have been into both the Bali and the Marriott bombings, there has been a certain amount of that work. Frankly, a development of the understanding of JI cells was much more immature than the understanding is now. That has been an important part of the joint work of the Australians and the Indonesians. As time goes on what you will find is that they will be helping with the investigation into not just JI, and certainly not just in Indonesia, but the relationship between JI and other terrorist organisations like the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines and the well spoken of links with al-Qaeda and so on. This is a work in progress, we will see how it evolves. This is the vision as it currently is.

Journalist: How intense would security arrangements have to be to protect a Centre like this. You would think on face-value, that it would become the prime target of a JI-minded group in Indonesia.

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Mr Downer: Would you? I would not have thought that was necessarily so, in any case there will obviously be appropriate security put in place as there are with police stations, police headquarters and the like. It might be important to ensure that it is secure. I don’t have overwhelming concerns about that, but obviously we are never complacent about the threats of terrorist organisations. It goes without saying, that it what we are doing here. I don’t think it would be any more or any less threatened than other like institutions, particularly police headquarters here in Indonesia.

Journalist: …(inaudible)… legal frameworks are lacking in the region, does that mean that you eventually want to work towards some sort of uniform legal frameworks?

Mr Downer: I don’t think uniform is the right word to use and I am sure in fact I am sure that that would be politically impossible to achieve a uniform framework. It might be undesirable given the quite different cultures of the different countries and the different histories and legal systems and so on. What we are looking at much more, is closing any legal loopholes there might be.

Downer: Yes, legal loopholes which can be exploited by terrorist organisations, I mean terrorists themselves can move from country to country for example, and you can have immense problems with extraditions. Some countries in the region don’t even have extradition treaties with each other. In some cases there have been extraditions which have taken place without treaties, which, you know, hasn’t involved Australian by the way, but that must raise a certain number of legal questions.

Journalist: Have you considered the fact that JI has not been outlawed in Indonesia a legal loophole?

Mr Downer: I think the Indonesians themselves would be the first to recognise that there anti-terrorist legislation needs more work and they have, of course, been working on it. The name Jemaah Islamiyah is a matter of sensitivity here, as I think all of you would know. So, they have to think about how they do that and how they handle that. It is much less a question of the name and much more a question of the activities. It is easier for us to outlaw the name if you like, but a loophole is putting that too strongly, but they certainly recognise in Indonesia that they need to strengthen their anti-terrorism laws.

Journalist: Given the fractious relationship between Indonesia and Australia in the past years, how big a breakthrough is it to have 20 Australian Federal Police working on Java like this?

Mr Downer: I think what has been happening between Australia and Indonesia quietly over the last, what is it now since the Bali bombings? The last fourteen, fifteen months has been remarkable. I think in Indonesia that there is recognition that terrorism is a real problem. That victims include Indonesians themselves and they recognise that Australia is a resource that they can drawn on and there is that willingness in Australia to help. I think that has really bound our two countries together clearly at the police to police level,

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and I think that Mick Keelty will be talking to you this afternoon about that, also, very substantially, at the political level. I mean, Hassan Wirajuda and I have embarked on a lot of projects together over the last couple of years. When countries live side-by-side there are all these things that arise. That’s the nature of things. You can take the ASEAN countries themselves, there are often difficulties in their relationships because they are next to each other. We don’t have a lot of problems in our relations with Iceland, but then you know, we don’t have much to do with Iceland, no reflection on Iceland, it just happens to be a long way away. You know, with a next door neighbour there are always issues that need to be dealt with. The strength of the relationship now is reflected very much yesterday in the fact that President Megawati came down here to open the Conference and what she said to me and Philip Ruddock in our meeting with her. It was a very warm meeting and she feels very strongly about building up the relationship with Australia. I was both surprised and enormously pleased that she came to our Embassy, to the Australia Day Reception recently. I don’t recall the President of Indonesia ever going to our Ambassador’s Reception for Australia Day before, it may have happened, I don’t know, but Heads of State don’t usually go to Embassies for their Australia Day receptions. I think she is really putting a lot of energy herself into the relationship.

Journalist: You spoke a moment ago about Indonesia finally confessing that it has a terrorist problem, but it doesn’t concede it has a home-grown terrorist problem, does it.

Mr Downer: I have said this on a number of occasions and I choose my words carefully, of course, as a Foreign Minister, but there is a lot of political sensitivity about this issue in Indonesia as you would understand. How they articulate their concerns has to be seen in that context. This is an election year, so we look to their actions rather than necessarily the rhetoric. I think in terms of their actions they have been doing a good job in recent times, certainly since the Bali bombing and the fact that they have co-chaired this meeting and shown such strength and commitment during the meeting to countering terrorism, you would have to say that is pretty impressive. I mean, if the President herself is equivocal about countering terrorism, she certainly wouldn’t be opening a counter-terrorism meeting in Indonesia.

Journalist: Can I just ask another question, not about Iceland but Pakistan, the father of the bomb has now thrown his hands up…

Mr Downer: So I see…

Journalist: as responsible for leaking all of the secrets. Do you accept that he was acting alone or that there is a deeper problem in Pakistan and what do you think about a country that has been a security ally, this is disappointing news.

Mr Downer: Well have been very concerned over quite some years of the possibility of Pakistani’s working with other countries in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That has not been a new issue to us and particularly in the context of the development of North Korea’s nuclear program, the relationship there has been one that has caused us concern over the years, not recently. This obviously is a very important

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development. I met with President Musharraf the other day and we had a long conversation about this whole issue, about proliferation out of Pakistan, and I was impressed with his commitment to dealing with the problem. He made some very strong statements about how Pakistan would track down those who were responsible and cut off this trade. I don’t know whether there was anybody else involved, but I put it this way, that it is important that the Pakistani Government get to the bottom of all of the people who are involved here, it can’t have collaborators. I think the Pakistani Government needs to track them down and make sure that that sort of grizzly trade can’t take place in the future. It is a big step forward though for this confession to be made. The Pakistanis will have to work out what they do with the man who has been so lauded as the father of the Islamic bomb.