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Indonesia accepts Australian apology and promise of punishment over offensive material

Sydney Morning Herald - February 9, 2017

Jewel Topsfield Indonesia's military chief says Australia has apologised over "very sensitive and painful" material found at an army base in Perth that insulted Indonesia's state ideology and promised "strict punishment" for all personnel involved.

General Gatot Nurmantyo said he accepted the apology but a decision was yet to be made about the continuation of military cooperation between the two countries.

The defence fracas broke out in early January after it emerged an Indonesian language instructor had come across curriculum at Campbell Barracks that included an assignment on West Papuan independence and a spoof of the state ideology Pancasila.

This send-up of Pancasila "Pancagila", a play on words meaning "five crazy principles" is sometimes circulated on social media in Indonesia by those who wish to mock the state ideology.

It initially appeared as if all defence ties between the two nations had been suspended as a result, although Chief Security Minister Wiranto later clarified the postponement of cooperation related to the Special Forces Australia language training program only.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, the Indonesian military said Australian Army chief Angus Campbell had conveyed "deep regret and apology" over the incident that occurred at the language training institution of the Special Forces Command of the Australian Army.

It said the Australian military would stop Indonesian language learning activities and conduct an internal restructure as well as revise the learning materials.

"The Australian Defence Force will also apply strict punishment to all personnel involved and responsible for the incident, which affects their career," General Gatot said in the statement.

He told reporters in Ambon that Lieutenant General Campbell had stressed the material found did not reflect the views of the Australian Army when he met with him in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"Therefore steps have been taken to close down the school and carry out an evaluation over the curriculum because the curriculum was not right," he said on Wednesday night.

"And the most important thing is to carry out the process of punishing either the school's principal or related personnel in a way that will affect their careers."

General Gatot said in the statement that Indonesians were willing to die defending the state ideology of Pancasila, which lays out the nation's broad principles of religion, civilised humanity, social justice, democracy and unity.

"Moreover for TNI [Indonesian military] soldiers... that is very sensitive and painful."

General Gatot said he was grateful for the "quick and decisive action" from Chief of the Australian Defence Force Mark Binskin and Lieutenant General Campbell.

He said he had accepted the apology and "realised that in this competitive global era, unity and friendship were needed by neighbouring countries".

However at the end of the meeting, the Indonesian military chief had not made any decision about the continuation of military cooperation between the two countries. It would be discussed with the Indonesian Defence Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister and the result reported to President Joko Widodo.

In April last year it was widely reported that Islam Defenders Front leader Rizieq Shihab the firebrand cleric who spearheaded massive rallies in Jakarta last year calling for Jakarta's governor to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam changed Pancasila to Pancagila in one of his speeches.

Bradley Wood, a Masters student from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at Australian National University, recently argued that the use of sensitive political material, such as 'Pancagila', by the Australian Defence Force's language students was important to Australia's official language and cultural training.

"Politically sensitive material like this provides a valuable insight into Indonesia's internal political dynamics from an indigenous perspective, and it's these insights that contribute to a better understanding of Indonesia's human terrain," he wrote in New Mandala.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesia-accepts-australian-apology-and-promise-of-punishment-over-offensive-material-20170209-gu8pbw.html.

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