Clark Speech: Jakarta Editors’ Club
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Address to Jakarta Editors’ Club and Public Relations Association of Indonesia
12.30pm (5.30pm NZ time)
6 May 2002
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. I am pleased to be in Jakarta, at the invitation of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, for my first visit as Prime Minister of New Zealand. This is not, however, my first visit to Indonesia. I was here three times in the 1980s, twice as a private citizen, and once during my time as chairperson of our Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee. On that latter visit in 1986, I was able to travel far beyond Jakarta to Ujung Pandang in Sulawesi, to Bali, and to Papua.
I do appreciate the challenge faced by the founders of post-colonial Indonesia as they sought to build a nation across more than 17,000 islands, three time zones, and many languages and cultures. Indonesia is an immensely more complex society than New Zealand. Keeping a strong sense of national identity and purpose will always be a more difficult task for this nation than it is for New Zealand.
Yet, difficult as that task is, it is vital for Indonesia and its neighbours that this nation is prosperous and stable. Indonesia with its huge population and national resources can be a powerful economic force in the region and a powerful force for stability.
I have come to Jakarta because my government and I personally place a high value on our relationship with Indonesia and want to see it continue to strengthen. It is no secret that in the past New Zealand has at times differed sharply with Indonesian governments over the measures they have taken to hinder the evolution of democracy and to suppress dissent. It would also be too much to suggest that our concerns over issues like human rights and justice have entirely disappeared since 1998.
But what we do acknowledge is what has been achieved and in how short a time frame. It is not yet four years since Indonesia left behind a long period of authoritarian rule and began experimenting with new freedoms. I do not believe that shift will be reversed. As this audience well knows, Indonesia now has a vigorous news media, and that is an essential part of the democratic transition.
A number of developments have enabled the relationship between New Zealand and Indonesia to improve significantly in the past two years. The democratic transition here means that our governments have more shared values now than in the past. Indonesia’s acceptance of East Timor’s desire for independence also removed a significant obstacle to warmer relations.
New Zealand has been very involved in peacekeeping in East Timor since the referendum on independence. That deployment of our forces there has caused us sorrow, with three soldiers dying in accidents, and one being murdered by a militiaman operating out of West Timor. I can say however that the Indonesian authorities’ willingness to prosecute the killer demonstrated their determination to ensure that justice was done, and that act of good faith in itself has been very positive for our relationship.
There have been a number of opportunities taken over the past two years for our leaders and ministers to meet and discuss issues of shared interest and concern. I was able to hold bilateral talks with President Wahid in New York in September 2000, in Brunei in November 2000, and when the President came to New Zealand in June last year. I met President Megawati in Shanghai last October, and Foreign Minister Wirajuda when he came to New Zealand late last year. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration ministers have all been in Indonesia in the past two years. Our discussions have covered our trade and economic relationships, the shape of New Zealand’s aid programme in Indonesia, our many shared regional interests, and New Zealand’s continuing concern on human rights issues.
In recent times our trade relationship has grown strongly. While New Zealand’s exports to Indonesia dropped sharply after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, they have since recovered to record levels at $533 NZ million in the year to December 2001. In that year, our two-way trade grew by 25 per cent to reach almost $1 billion NZ. When President Wahid came to New Zealand last year we discussed how to enhance our co-operation in the education, tourism, agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors. That discussion was followed through in the New Zealand - Indonesia Joint Economic and Trade Commission in October, and there is now a Joint Commission Review Group facilitated by our foreign ministries to take the process forward.
The provision of education for international students in the medium of the English language has emerged as a major service industry in New Zealand, worth around one billion New Zealand dollars a year and growing fast. Last year we attracted more than six hundred fee paying students from Indonesia and would welcome more. We have designated Indonesia as a priority market and are spending more to promote New Zealand education to Indonesian students.
Education in New Zealand is attractive for three main reasons: it is of a high international standard; it is offered in the world’s major trading language, English; and it is highly cost competitive. In addition, New Zealand is by world standards a very safe society to live in, and also one which is both culturally diverse and tolerant.
Tourism from Indonesia to New Zealand is in its relative infancy, with fewer than 10,000 Indonesians coming to New Zealand for short term visits in year 2000. As Indonesia’s economy grows, I am sure we will also see growth in the visitor numbers. Close to 17,000 New Zealanders visited Indonesia last year - and Bali is of course very popular.
When President Wahid visited New Zealand last year, we were in the process of reviewing our aid programme in Indonesia. There was wide consultation in both New Zealand and Indonesia with government officials, business, academics, NGOs and with other donors, and there was a round of site visits to development projects in Indonesia. The President and his delegation especially emphasised to me the needs of Indonesia’s eastern provinces, given that some 44 per cent of the people there are said to live in poverty.
The outcome of the review has been both to strengthen and to refocus the aid programme. It has increased in value by around 50 per cent. There will be a strong focus on the eastern region from Lombok to Papua and on poverty elimination in general. We will also support governance reform which strengthens Indonesia’s civil service, judiciary, electoral system, and human rights institutions.
While New Zealand is inevitably a small player in Indonesia’s trade and development, we want to be engaged as a friend and neighbour in seeing Indonesia and her peoples move ahead. Our human rights advocacy should be seen in this context. We wish to see the Indonesian government and separatist groups resolve their differences peacefully, and we welcome the special autonomy measures for Papua and Aceh. In Aceh our aid programme has supported Peace Brigades International which facilitates humanitarian and human rights activities by local NGOs in conflict zones.
We also look forward to continued Indonesian government support for implementation of the peace accords signed by the leaders of the Muslim and Christian communities in Sulawesi and Maluku. In the past two years we have helped fund humanitarian and conflict resolution projects in the Malukus.
An issue on which we have had increased dialogue with Indonesia is that of people smuggling. New Zealand sent two ministers to the Bali conference on people smuggling in February, and our officials are co-ordinating a working group established by the conference on building closer regional and international co-operation. People smuggling is a major international problem and can only be addressed effectively by nations working together. The same applies to resettlement of the world’s refugees.
New Zealand acknowledges that refugees recognised by the UNHCR have ended up stranded in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, and in the Pacific nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. While our annual quota for refugee settlement is small, at only 750 places, we are now allocating more of the places in it to refugees currently located in our region to help relieve pressures on our neighbours.
What we will not tolerate are those who seek to smuggle people into our country. Those convicted of people smuggling and trafficking into New Zealand will face up to twenty years in gaol and fines of up to half a million dollars. Those who aid and abet people smugglers are also liable for heavy prison sentences. It is important than anyone contemplating involvement in this criminal trade knows of the very harsh penalties they face in New Zealand.
I must also warn that the success rate of asylum seekers applying for refugee status in New Zealand is very low, at under twenty per cent of those who apply. While New Zealand seeks to treat asylum seekers in a humane and fair way, it is also firm in seeking to deport those who have no legal right or claim to stay in New Zealand.
To date illegal migrants to New Zealand have largely arrived by air and from a variety of destinations. We are introducing new measures to combat that. We will also continue to work closely with Indonesia to help prevent the departure of illegal migrants to New Zealand by sea. We are publicising not only the harsh penalties which we are introducing against people smuggling, but also the huge risk to human life which a voyage to New Zealand over many thousands of kilometres and harsh seas would entail.
Another of the new issues on which New Zealand and Indonesia need to maintain a dialogue is terrorism. Since 11 September New Zealand has reviewed all its counter terrorism policies and procedures, and like Indonesia, we have new counter terrorism legislation before our Parliament. Common approaches to these problems can also be advanced through the ASEAN regional forum.
That forum is one of many in which New Zealand and Indonesia regularly interact. New Zealand is a committed participant in Asian-Pacific regional institutions, including APEC and the ASEAN post-ministerial conferences. We have welcomed Japan’s proposals for an East Asian community which would include New Zealand and Australia. We support Indonesia’s initiative for a South-Western Pacific dialogue, which would bring Indonesia and New Zealand together with Australia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor. New Zealand was also a supporter of Indonesia becoming a dialogue partner for the Pacific Island Forum, which happened for the first time last year.
In the economic sphere, New Zealand and Indonesia have worked together in the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations, and we have many common objectives for the Doha development round of the W.T.O.
In the international arena New Zealand is positioned as an independent minded and progressive nation which is fully engaged in world affairs. We have unique features which I believe enable us to make links with a wide range of nations:
- We are a developed country with a predominantly European population, which links us to North America and Europe, but our geographical location links us strongly to the Asia-Pacific, as do the growing numbers of Asian migrants to New Zealand.
- Notwithstanding our first world status, as a significant primary sector exporter we have trading interests in common with many developing countries.
- Our place in the far south of the southern hemisphere links us with the southern cone nations of South America on environmental and conservation issues relating to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
- We are inextricably linked to the South Pacific through the heritage of the indigenous Maori population and the significant Pacific peoples migrant populations in our country.
- Our long standing advocacy for nuclear disarmament has seen us work across the old boundaries of North and South in the New Agenda grouping with Sweden, Ireland, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, and Mexico for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
- We value our membership of the Commonwealth, which brings together all those nations linked by the English language and a commitment to democracy, constitutional government, and the rule of law, Zimbabwe not withstanding.
We are, in summary, a small and geographically remote nation which is determined to be internationally involved. We are an export-oriented nation which seeks to advance open trade.
It is our desire to reach outwards and build relationships which encouraged me to accept President Megawati’s invitation to come to Jakarta. I want to encourage more links between our countries. We need to get to know each other better as neighbours. That means more visits both ways involving more of our people. The flow of students and tourists is important and we can build on it. We can encourage our Ministers and parliamentarians to meet, our sports people to compete, our cities to develop sister relationships, and our media to devote more attention to our respective countries. More cultural exchanges would also be beneficial.
What I know is that the process of democratic reform in Indonesia has created new opportunities for us to work together and for New Zealand to support the development of this country. That and our shared interest in a prosperous and stable Asia-Pacific should serve to draw us ever closer together.