Anger mounts: Indonesia reacts after allegations that Australia spied on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Photo: Reuters
Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia amid fury in Jakarta over revelations that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of the Indonesian President and his wife.
The position of the Australian ambassador, Greg Moriarty, and diplomatic staff in Jakarta will also be ”reviewed” as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered his own security agency to investigate the revelations.
Australia’s deputy head of mission David Engel was called in to Indonesia’s foreign affairs department on Monday to answer questions. Jakarta’s review would include all co-operation between the two countries, an Indonesian government statement said.
Ambassador recalled: Nadjib Riphat Kesoema. Photo: Supplied
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott declined to comment on the ambassador’s recall.
The furore erupted after whistleblower Edward Snowden released documents revealing that in 2009 Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate targeted the personal mobile numbers of Dr Yudhoyono and his wife, Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight others in the President’s inner circle.
His spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, called on Australia to urgently ”clarify this news to avoid further damage. The damage has been done and now trust must be rebuilt.”
Dr Yudhoyono’s special adviser for political affairs, Daniel Sparringa, said the spying revelations had ”devastated” the President.
”Until today, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has always paid special attention toward the deepening of the two countries’ relations. Therefore the news has devastated us,” he said.
Mr Sparringa said if immediate action was not taken by Australia, ”it will continue to impede” ties.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said: “It is nothing less than an unfriendly act which is having already a very serious impact on our bilateral relations.
“This is not a clever thing. It’s not a smart thing to do. It violates every single decent and legal instrument that I can think of.” He was not satisfied with Australia’s response, which he characterised as ”dismissive”. He repeated an earlier threat to withdraw intelligence cooperation – which could include information on people-smuggling and terrorism.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott declined to comment on the revelations but defended information-gathering in principle while reiterating that the relationship with Indonesia was “all in all our most important”.
”All governments gather information … and all governments know that every other government gathers information,” he said.
However, Australia used information to ”help our friends and our allies, not to harm them”, Mr Abbott said.
”My first duty is to protect Australia and to advance our national interest and I will never, ever depart from that. Consistent with that duty, I will never say or do anything that might damage the strong relationship and the close co-operation that we have with Indonesia.”
The revelations will stoke tensions between the two nations, already simmering over boat turn-backs and Indonesia’s dissatisfaction with Australia’s explanation on earlier spying revelations.
It is believed that Dr Yudhoyono has called together his closest advisers to discuss the allegations and an appropriate response as furious senior members of Indonesia’s parliament pressed him to take a firm line. The President has ordered the State Intelligence Agency to find out which Indonesian officials are currently the subject of phone-tapping.
A deputy chairman of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Tubagus Hasanuddin, said Australia had “crossed the line”.
The revelations were contained in documents leaked by Snowden and revealed by the ABC and the Guardian Australia website on Monday.
The phones of the President, his wife – who is known universally as Ibu Ani – Vice-President Boediono, former vice-president Yusuf Kalla and Dr Yudhoyono’s foreign affairs spokesman, Dino Patti Djalal, were all targeted, as were a number of senior ministers.
Mr Dino, until recently Indonesia’s ambassador to Washington, Yusuf Kalla and another spying victim, Hatta Rajasa, all have presidential ambitions in elections next year.
The documents reportedly reveal that Australia attempted to listen to Dr Yudhoyono’s personal phone calls at least once in 2009.
The material comes in the form of a slide presentation. One slide entitled ”IA Leadership Targets + Handsets” bears the names of the top political figures and the types of phones they own. The slide’s footer bears an Australian Defence Department slogan: ”Reveal their secrets – Protect our own.”
Another slide is titled ”Indonesian President Voice Events” and has a graphic of calls from Dr Yudhoyono’s Nokia phone over 15 days in November 2009.
Mr Dino told ABC’s 7.30 that he felt “very violated” by the tapping.
Mr Hatta, who was the state secretary at the time, said he was concerned because, at the time, he was discussing “state secrets which were certainly not for public consumption, let alone for another country’s”.
The deputy speaker of Indonesia’s parliament, Budi Priyo Santoso, said there was great anger among MPs. “I’m deeply disappointed and upset … why would they use this kind of thing if they try to conduct their diplomacy to a high moral standard? We need clarification, otherwise it will affect our bilateral relationship.”
Another senior MP, Mr Tubagus, said Dr Yudhoyono must react strongly. “Give Australia a timeframe to provide an explanation. If not, return the Australian ambassador to his country until Indonesia gets an explanation.”
The bugging of Ibu Ani would not appear simply to be an attempt to extract personal information about the President, but to have an ear to one of the most important policy relationships in Indonesia.
In a 2007 WikiLeaks cable, Ibu Ani was named by US diplomats as the country’s ”cabinet of one”, and sources in Jakarta’s political elite have described her as having a ”gatekeeper role” to the President.
Tensions are already high between Australia and Indonesia over surveillance after Fairfax Media reported recently that Australia’s embassy in Jakarta housed electronic spying equipment.
Greens senator Scott Ludlam has called for an immediate inquiry, saying that Australian intelligence-gathering along with the US surveillance program was out of control.
Former foreign minister Alexander Downer said the revelations were damaging to Australia. ”It’s a shocking situation,” he said.