Monday, 23 February 2015

Australia gave Indonesia

over a billion dollars in aid when the Boxing Day tsunami hit. Some of the poorest areas of Indonesia had been devastated. They needed help and they needed it quickly. 
The government used taxpayer dollars to give most of that aid but individuals helped too. There were all the usual fund raising activities. The Senior Cat took a shawl I had just finished knitting to his church, along with a box made from rare, naturally fallen timber he had made. They were raffled off and the proceeds went off. 
I suspect that similar things happened in hundreds, if not thousands, of other places. Indonesia, a wealthy country, accepted all that aid - and much more from elsewhere. 
I lived on very little sleep for weeks as the tsunami of work rolled in. Again there must have been many other people like me. 
We didn't mind. There were people who had been left with absolutely nothing. They needed help.
Several days ago our Prime Minister got into hot water because he reminded the Indonesian government of the bond that had been forged between the two countries at the time. The Indonesians took it as a "we helped you so you shouldn't execute two drug smugglers who happen to be Australian citizens". The Prime Minister said that this was not the way his remark was intended to be taken. He was simply reminding Indonesia that the country was considered a friend and that negotiations should be able to be undertaken on that basis. Reasonable? Apparently not. Offence was taken.
The fact that offence was taken interests me. It suggests a number of things. The first is that Indonesian officials are aware that the death penalty is not acceptable in many parts of the world. They dislike being criticised for the barbaric practice of putting anyone in front of a firing squad. Delaying the process is a further form of torture but nobody dares to speak of it while, they claim, there is a glimmer of hope that the two in question won't be executed. My own guess is that the Indonesians are simply prolonging the agony hoping to get something from it for themselves.
Another thing that their taking of offence suggests is that the Indonesians are aware that most of the billions of dollars which poured into their country did not come from their fellow Muslims but from the Christian west. It's a touchy issue. 
And yes, there are issues with corruption and money being wasted. Some of the money still hasn't been spent. There are still projects which have been delayed by internal political and business interests. Many other internal problems also exist. 
And I think there is something else. I think Indonesians at the highest levels disliked the presumption that there was any sort of friendship between the two countries. Diplomacy requires the occasional statement about "friendship" but Indonesia does not see it that way. It was, quite simply, offensive to them. As neighbours we are tolerated but we are not part of the family. 
It's not a popular point of view but I believe it is an accurate assessment of Downunder's relations with the Asian region.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heck Cat! I have to agree but saying that around the corridors of power wouldn't make you too popular - even though most of them would privately agree with you. Our "friendship" with Asia is about what's in it for "us" on both sides.