What do Indonesians think about Australia

The following is a transcript of an episode of Insight titled "Neighbours", recorded in Jakarta and broadcast October 4, 2005 on SBS TV Australia. Wimar was one of the panel to speak on what Indonesians think of Australia.


Taken from Insight Transcripts


For some time Insight has been planning to produce a special edition of Insight from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. We've had plenty to say about Indonesia but we wanted to know what Indonesians think about us. Insight planned to talk about Australia's foreign policies, Muslim extremism and the trials of young Australians on drug charges in Bali. A poll had shown nearly a third of Australians view Indonesia as a threat, a country where 90% of the population is Muslim. Insight planned the program to coincide with next week's anniversary of the terrorist attack in Bali in October 2002. Tragically, another massacre in Bali has now occurred. Insight recorded this program before the events of the weekend but what our guests have to say is still entirely relevant. Our forum was held at the studios of Metro TV in Jakarta. Insight invited community leaders, politicians, diplomats and journalists, many of whom have visited Australia. Our guests included Yenny Wahid, the daughter of the former Indonesian president - she once worked as a journalist for the 'Sydney Morning Herald' - also Desi Anwar, the senior newsreader for Metro TV where we recorded our program, Wimar Witoelar, a former presidential advisor and a well-known commentator and Angelina Sondakh, a former Miss Indonesia and a Member of Parliament.

JENNY BROCKIE: I'd like to welcome all of you to Insight tonight. Thank you very much for joining us. And I'd like to start with you, Alpha Amirrachman. You've just come back to Indonesia, I think, after studying at the University of Sydney. What do you think Australians don't understand about Indonesia?

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN, JOURNALIST: Thank you, Jenny. But I don't want to get trapped in stereotyping, OK? But I was in Sydney when the Bali blast occurred. It was so tragic. Many Australians were killed. And people at the university were very diplomatic. They didn't want to show their anger to me, their cynicism. But, outside of the universities, I met one woman who was unable to hide her anger and she told me, "Bali should not belong to Indonesia." I said, "Why?" "Because Bali is so different from the rest of Indonesia." "What do you mean by 'the rest of Indonesia'?" "The rest of Indonesia means Muslim majority." So I don't want to get trapped in stereotyping, but I have strong -

JENNY BROCKIE: But do you think that stereotyping exists in Australia?

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN: Yeah, yeah, I think so. But I had a strong impression that, that woman doesn't really understand the diversity of Indonesia, doesn't really understand the complexity of Indonesian society. That's my impression.

JENNY BROCKIE: And you - I know you also wrote about another incident in a bar, when you were in a bar in Sydney. Can you tell us that story?

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN: Yeah, but I was with my Australian friends and some of my international friends verbally attacked me, they said, "Your country is so dangerous because most of them are Muslims." And I was so angry. And my Australian friend calmed me down and then he drove me home. But I didn't get drunk. I was drinking orange juice at the time. Those people were drinking beer and they were angry with me.

JENNY BROCKIE: But how did you feel, though, when you received that sort of message in Australia? How did you feel at that time? You were angry, yeah?

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN: I was so angry and I said, "You know, a small fight in Indonesia could result in headless body on the streets." I was so angry, I expressed myself like that. And my Australian friend calmed me down and, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: Desi, what do you think? You're a news anchor here at Metro TV where we're recording this program. Do you think Australians understand Indonesia?

DESI ANWAR, TV PRESENTER: Well, I wouldn't want to presume what Australians think of Indonesia. I mean, the - the one thing that we do get is through the media coverage of what - Australian media cover, what Australians think about Indonesia. And I don't know how true that is, whether it actually reflects the sentiment of Australians in general.

JENNY BROCKIE: So what do you think of that media coverage, though, when you see it? What sort of things are you talking about?

DESI ANWAR: Well, for example, the reaction to the Schapelle Corby case, for example, and of course the trial of Abu Bakar Bashir and that kind of emotions that we get to read on Australian media. And again, being in the media, I don't know how -

JENNY BROCKIE: Representative it is.

DESI ANWAR: How true, how representative that is. I mean, my personal experience with Australians, I mean, they're wonderful people. I know a lot of people in Australia and I know a lot of Australians in Indonesia.

JENNY BROCKIE: But what it is about that kind of coverage that worries you?

DESI ANWAR: Well, I think it doesn't worry me as much as - for example, it shows in a way that there is this gap of understanding about Indonesia but what actually worries me most is that the emotional reaction that that kind of - you know - generates a kind of ill feeling, which I think is unnecessary. Because, I mean, emotional responses I can perfectly understand because, you know, with emotional reactions, you can motivate people to do, sort of, good things, you know? It makes people generous for example. It makes people - it puts people together. But, in terms of emotional responses that create, for example, negative impact, I don't think it's very good -

JENNY BROCKIE: You mentioned a gap in understanding. Where's the gap?

DESI ANWAR: Well, I think basically - I mean, I wrote an article about the reaction to the Schapelle Corby case. One thing that I think Indonesians cannot understand is why was there such an emotional response from the Australians because, when Indonesian media, for example, covers issues about Australia, for example, the Bali bombing, we actually covered the - more of the victims, you know, the Australian victims of the bombings more than the Indonesians who actually died. So to get that kind of response is -

JENNY BROCKIE: So you think it's skewed the wrong way in a sense? It's sort of tipped the wrong way?

DESI ANWAR: Yeah, and I think it's, you know, I think that kind of reporting, I mean, if the media wants to focus on that kind of reporting, they're not actually doing themselves a service by focusing on the emotional side of the reactions.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yes, Wimar, yes.

PROFESSOR WIMAR WITOELAR,JOURNALIST: I don't think we can single out the Australian media as such but the media of any developed country which has an organised press backed by big business. I'm a Professor of Journalism at Deakin University and I've seen how people are channelled into the world of PR, world of journalism, and I know the individuals well, I know very many Australians. All of them are unbiased. All of them are enlightened. All of them are educated. But, when they band together, they have a posse mentality that says, "Lynch the image of the Indonesians." So I think it's a frenzy among the media, which is not specifically Australian.

JENNY BROCKIE: But I'm interested about the point you're making about when people get together they're - you said bossy?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Posse. American, P-O-S-S-E. You know, "Get the culprit, round up the citizens, get the black guy, the Chinese guy, the brown guy."



JENNY BROCKIE: You think the Australian media is racist?

WIMAR WITOELAR: No, they're not racist, but the Australian media appeals to some part of Australia which somehow, you know, gets their feelings incited over that. But you don't see that when they are individuals.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yenny. Yes. Do you agree with that? I mean, you've worked as a journalist on the 'Sydney Morning Herald' and you've lived in Australia.

YENNY WAHID, DIRECTOR, WAHID INSTITUTE: To a certain degree, there is a stereotyping that journalists do to make the stories simple for the readers. And I think Indonesia is such a complex and diverse culture that, without the simplification and stereotyping, it would be very difficult for the, you know, the readers or for the - What do you call it? For TV. For the viewers, the audiences to understand what's really going on. So it's almost -

ANGELINA SONDAKH, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I just want to jump in. You know, the perception, you know, because when I was meeting with the Member of the Parliament from Australia and some of the young members of the Parliament and they say, "Angelina, are you Indonesian?" and it's like, "Yes. Why?" "You don't look like Indonesian." I mean, that's one perception. But I'm purely Indonesian. My mum is Mindanaoese and my father is Indonesian. This is how the Australians see Indonesia and the Indonesian people. I mean, besides that, you know, people from Aceh, Minadano, Jakarta are different.

JENNY BROCKIE: So do you feel Indonesia gets simplified as a nation? Lots of nodding here.

YENNY WAHID: Any news in the world about other countries always gets simplified. It's just the nature of the media, in my opinion. And also, in my - I think that most people are very provincial, be it Indonesians, Australians, Americans, you know, any countries. I mean, they tend to look at things from their own perspective. So the media, in a way, has to follow that dictate, you know, otherwise, people won't really understand the story. So, in that process, the nuances get lost.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what are the nuances? Tell me about the nuances of Indonesia.

YENNY WAHID: Well, you know, the fact that -

MAN: Tell her about the Muslims being seen as troublemakers.

YENNY WAHID: Yes, the Muslim issue, you know, is very, is very simple case. I mean, Muslim in the world, not only Indonesia, is not a homogeneous entity. We have a spectrum, you know, a difference, of a brand of Islamism that people believe in. There are the so-called moderates, there are the people that believe that violence is the only means to channel their views and all sorts of things but not all Muslims are similar. And this gets lost of course in the translation or whatever, in the reporting.

JENNY BROCKIE: Chusnul, what do you think about that? Did you agree with that?

CHUSNUL MAR’IYAH, UNIVERSITY LECTURER: Well, I'm not expert on the media but I think my understanding about Australia and Indonesia relations is, you know, Australian society is also divided between the Canberra policies and the Jakarta policies and also between the people.


DITA SARI, TRADE UNION LEADER: Yeah, I think we have to be quite clear in this case because we have to make sure that there is a differentiation between the Government of Australia and the people of Australia. We cannot just mix it up. Most of the time, I think the policy of the Government of Australia, the Howard Government right now, can shape the attitude and consciousness of the majority of the people of Australia. For instance, like the participation of the Howard Government in the war in Iraq, the Australians also accepting troops to Iraq, it helps creating the understanding and consciousness among the Australians that because this war is against terrorism and it - most of the time, it's portrayed as the war against the Muslims' community - so the sentiment, anti-Muslim sentiment, then raised in Australia but I think it's not originally owned by the Australians but I think it mostly caused by the policy of the Government.

JENNY BROCKIE: And Indonesians feel that? You feel that, that anti-Muslim sentiment? Is that something you feel coming from Australia?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Well, even in your opening you said that Australians thinking that Indonesia 90% Muslim means they are trouble. So it goes, you know, even without thinking that the stereotypes - I know, that if you think hard, you know - I mean, these are not terrorists you have here and we are probably 90% Muslim - but somehow again, when you get on to that podium, into that thing called the media, you tend to generalise, maybe because it's harder to differentiate.

JENNY BROCKIE: But that is a fact too. I mean, that's just a fact.

WIMAR WITOELAR: That 90% are terrorists?

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, yeah - no. That's not what I said. That's not what I said!

WIMAR WITOELAR: What is a fact?

JENNY BROCKIE: That 90% are Muslim.

WIMAR WITOELAR: Sure. But that has no linearity with troublemaking. I mean, in New Orleans, there was a lot of looting, they're not Muslims. Bush dropped a lot of bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan and he's not Muslim. So a lot of non-Muslims cause trouble - Northern Ireland, everywhere.

JENNY BROCKIE: I guess it's interesting because, when I think about the reason that we said that, one of the reasons we said that was because of the fear. It feeds on itself, doesn't it, in a sense?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Well, fear, of course, is psychological. It's your problem. I mean, Australians ask me, "Is it safe in Indonesia?" I don't know. It's not safe anywhere. It's not safe at my dentist, right? I mean, you can get AIDS or something. So it's very psychological.

JENNY BROCKIE: It's a good point. It's a very good point. Yes.

THANG NGUYEN, JOURNALIST: I'd like to go back to what Wimar and Yenny and other media leaders here have said so far about the gap between the understanding of Indonesia in Australia and vice versa. It's not just how the media portrays Indonesia in Australia and the rest of the world - what they portray, what they choose to show of Indonesia really matters. You sit in Canberra or Washington DC and you turn on your camera - your TV, I'm sorry - all you see is coverage of terrorist bombings. You don't see much of diverse Indonesia. You don't see coverage of the third largest democracy in the largest Muslim world on TV.

JENNY BROCKIE: But that's the nature of news, isn't it? Isn't news about problems?

THANG NGUYEN: Bad news sells. Bad news sells. Intelligent people will think for themselves, they will not rely on the TV to tell them what to think but unfortunately how many Australians or Americans for that matter... ..have that capacity to distinguish what is bad news from good news.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yes. Mr Sadjanan, yes, you. Former ambassador to Australia. What do you have to say about this?

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA: Well, being somebody who really has to gather all the opinion and try to articulate these opinions into strengthening relations between countries - that is my profession - I think when people oversimplify, simplify overly a certain issue, and react on this very simple mind of opinion, of reason, then that creates problems to people like us. Say, for instance, at the time when you remember probably in 2001 when hundreds of illegal migrants, they was transported by Indonesian ship. The reaction that is being made by the Australian Government at the time was that the Indonesian Government have to be held responsible for this. And then this, I think it is oversimplification of a response by somebody at the very high level of government official. I think this kind of attitude in many cases creates difficulty for people like us.

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you feel that's patronising sometimes?

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: Oh, well, unfortunately that's the fact. So saying that the Indonesian Government have to be held responsible for this case - I think this for the ordinary people in Indonesia is kind of accusations, baseless accusations. Because those people are not even Indonesian nationals and we do not know where they come from but why should we be held accountable for this while the fact is that those people are trying to get into Australia and we are the victim of the situations. Being the victim at the time when we feel we are the victim and at the time we are feeling as the victim, we are accused as being irresponsible and then it's hard for people like us to, you know, to redress the situations.

JENNY BROCKIE: Mmm. Hermawan, you wanted to say something. Now, you're a marketing consultant here. I'm interested from a marketing point of view what you think about all of this.

HERMAWAN KARTAJAYA, MARKETING CONSULTANT: Yeah, OK, in marketing, we believe that it is very often that perception is much more important than reality. But, you know, it is not fair actually. Sorry - Australia with 16 million to 20 million population, they are called continent and Indonesia with 220 million population, we are archipelago with 17,000 islands in the low tide and maybe 15,000 islands in the high tide, but we are called only country. So there is a simplification about us, right? So maybe Australians, they have the perception that Indonesia is very simple because we are called 'country' so everywhere is the same, that's why they simplify the thing.

JENNY BROCKIE: Endi, you wanted to say something. Editor of the 'Jakarta Post'. What do you think?

ENDI BAYUNI, EDITOR, JAKARTA POST: I feel this is turning into bashing the Australian media or it sounds like it. But I think that Hermawan was right that perception is formed by the media and in that way I think the media is responsible for forming public opinions. You know, trying to play the devil's advocate, I think the reverse is also true - that Indonesian media is not helping to, is not giving a true picture of Australia nowadays. Australia is now a very multiethnic society but yet I think in the public's perception, Australia is still very much white man's country, you know, European traditions, values and prejudices and this is the way in which we see - I'm not talking about us here because we know better - but the public in general, they see Australia -

JENNY BROCKIE: You're saying it cuts both ways.

ENDI BAYUNI: Especially in the wake of 9/11, the Bali bombing, the war on terrorism, and Indonesians see Australia as, you know, very much a white man's nation with all its, you know, so-called hidden agenda.

DESI ANWAR: Sorry, Jenny, if I can go back to the poll that you mentioned and if this poll is pretty accurate and if most Australians think that Indonesia is full of extremist terrorists about to blow up Australians and that, you know, Bali should be part of Australia and not part of Indonesia, then I think it's really sad in a way because, I mean, if the polling is accurate -

JENNY BROCKIE: It's a small poll. It's a small poll.

DESI ANWAR: If that is true, then I think Australians are missing out on, you know - just Indonesia is so much bigger than Bali, it's so much more. There's so many things that they can actually - you know, if they like surfing, it's not just in Bali, you can go to Nias, you can go to Mentawai and you can go to Banda. And so, in a way, I think it's the Australian media, you know, they are - I want to go back to the media. The media is actually doing the Australians a disservice because focusing on or basically pandering to sort of emotional outbursts, for example, or just focusing on the hopefully the vocal minorities that are sort of out to bash Indonesia is actually not doing Australians themselves any good because they are projecting themselves in a negative way, not just to Indonesia, but to the rest of the world. And I think it's a pity.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, for many Australians, one of the strongest images to come out of your country recently was of Schapelle Corby, that Schapelle Corby drug trial, the woman who was convicted on drug charges and there've also been others since, other Australians, the Bali Nine, now facing possible death sentences, and Australian model Michelle Leslie, who is now also facing drug charges. Alpha, what do you think of the way Australia has reacted to those drug cases?


JENNY BROCKIE: All of them, but Corby in particular, because it was the strongest.

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN: Yeah, I think it's - I could say excessive. I think, um, it was overreaction and it was also, again, situated by the media. And in Corby's case, you know, it was so excessive. It was focusing only on that and then emphasising the difference between Abu Bakar Bashir's treatment and Corby's treatment. That is legal matters, legal matters.

JENNY BROCKIE: And you think that was OK? I mean, Australians did think that was an extraordinary difference between the sentence that Abu Bakar Bashir got and that Schapelle Corby got. You did not think that was unusual?

WIMAR WITOELAR: They're apples and oranges. You cannot compare them. First of all, as a parent, I would be greatly distressed if my daughter, if I had a daughter, be in a spot like that and it's a personal tragedy. You should not link that, I think, to a case of bilateral relations or a judgment of the Indonesian judicial system but, if you do so, you should compare the Corby case to other people involved in drugs.

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: Can I pick up your point? I tend to see that this is a matter of law enforcement that is being judged by emotions, a matter of implementations of law that is being judged by the perceptions of somebody who is young and innocent and things and that this influenced the articulations of the very strong judgment into our judicial system as if we did not do anything good in terms of implementing our own law. This is, I think, once again, oversimplification of things, of matters. That placing an issue of law enforcement in the context of defending somebody who is young, innocent, pretty and things like that and then is being cooked up by the media and this is gone wrong. Once again, this is a matter of implementations of law enforcement.

JENNY BROCKIE: There was some extreme reaction in Australia to the Schapelle Corby case in particular and especially on talkback radio in Australia. I'd like to play you something that was broadcast on a popular Sydney radio station in May this year about that case.

MALCOLM T ELLIOTT, 2GB: The judges don’t even speak English, mate, they’re straight out of the trees if you excuse my expression.

CALLER: Don’t you think that disrespects the whole of our neighbouring nation?

MALCOLM: I have total disrespect for our neighbouring nation my friend. Total disrespect. And then we get this joke of a trial, and it’s nothing more than a joke. An absolute joke the way they sit there. And they do look like the three wise monkeys, I’ll say it. They don’t speak English, they read books, they don’t listen to her. They show us absolutely no respect those judges.

JENNY BROCKIE: Angelina, you wanted to say something.

ANGELINA SONDAKH: Yes. This is actually what we have talked about in the young leaders' discussion - you know, me and Nursanita - about how the media comparing our judges to the monkey and that it comes to our sensitivities. I mean, I believe that it's not the majority of the people in Australia think or voice but, in a matter of this case, I think media plays an important role in making the relationship to the betterment, not to damage the relationship to more worse.

JENNY BROCKIE: I should point out a lot of Australians were very offended by that as well when it was broadcast. Thang, you described in an online column, I think, about this case, you described the Australian reaction as being 'xenophobic'.

THANG NGUYEN: Yeah, right. And it reflects a certain attitude of racism which still remains in Australian society today. I think it's one thing to portray - for the media to pick on this image of a true-blue, beautiful woman to gain the sympathy from the Australian public, that's one thing. But I think it's beyond that, it's beyond the media playing that beautiful-woman-true-blue card. What I looked at in that article was why is it that there are 54 Australian criminals who face drug charges, including death penalty - death, not 20 years - why don't they get the same - why didn't they get the same attention from the public as well as the Australian Government that Corby did? For your information, she wrote a letter to Prime Minister Howard, who responded that, "Rest assured that I will take a personal interest in your case." Right?

JENNY BROCKIE: So why aren't the others getting attention? Why don't you think the others are getting any attention?

THANG NGUYEN: Because, guess what? Their last names are like mine - N-G-U-Y-E-N-, T-R-A-N, L-E-E, not Schapelle, not Corby.

JENNY BROCKIE: Do other people agree with what Thang is saying?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Well, the burden is on disproving his impression because it's a fact that so many dozens of Australians are facing death penalty and severe penalties in other South-East Asian cities and they are not of European origin so there has to be, you know, something disproved.

JENNY BROCKIE: So do you think Australia is racist?

DESI ANWAR: Jenny, if we read the articles in the newspapers, if we watch the programs or if we listen to that kind of radio broadcast, of course then we will think that Australians don't like us, they're racist and basically, you know, they don't like to be neighbours with us. But how true is that in real life? I mean, because we mustn't fall into that trap of stereotyping like all Australians are like that. Like you said, a lot of Australians were offended by statements that came out of that interview. So, I mean, let's be careful here -

JENNY BROCKIE: Not to generalise too much.

DESI ANWAR: Not to generalise or throwing petrol into the fire.

THANG NGUYEN: Don't get me wrong. I did not say in the article that the whole Australian society is racist. I'm saying through the reaction from the Australian public and the support from the Government, there is a reflection of certain racist attitudes that still maintain or remain in the society. I'm not saying the rest of Australia is racist, alright?

DESI ANWAR: No, but that kind of news coverage, or that kind of attitude will portray Australia as racist.

THANG NGUYEN: Excuse me. Have you heard of a former minister by the name Arthur Calwell? And you know what he said? "Two Wongs don't make a white." Here is a minister who said that.

DESI ANWAR: Well, I think that's more of a reflection on the minister.

THANG NGUYEN: Have you heard of a magazine called the 'Bulletin' in Australia? Only a few dozen years ago, the masthead of it still said "Australia for the white man". Now, if that is not racism, then tell me what it is.

JENNY BROCKIE: So that still bites for people in Indonesia?

DITA SARI: The policy, the immigrant policy of the Australian Government. I went to Australia in the year of 2002 and we had a picket line in front of the Villawood Detention Centre. It's an immigrant detention centre. And we saw that they were being treated very badly, children and mothers and old people. They're coming from Vietnam, they're coming from Bangladesh. They are poor people. They're not white. They're brown, they're yellow, but they're not white. And I saw how many of the Aborigines, for instance, in Australia are also very poor and how the policy of the Government treating them. I think this kind of public policy made by the Government affects the people, affects how the people look at the non-white Australians or the non-white people who live in Australia. So I don't say that Australians are racist, but the policy -

THANG NGUYEN: Sure, that's the reason why they see Corby as an innocent victim and they don't see other Australian citizens of Asian or Latin American descent as innocent. Maybe, maybe. We don't know, alright? They are saying the Indonesian judges are not being fair, the legal system here sucks. Now, let me tell you, the Indonesian judges gave Corby a very fair go. First, there was not enough witnesses. The High Court of Bali then decided to give her a second chance to bring witnesses to Bali to testify in her defence. Guess who showed up? One Indonesian law professor who defended her. Where were the Australian witnesses? If that's not fair, what is? You tell me that the first trial was unfair. I give you another one. Prove it.



CHUSNUL MAR’IYAH: I think we have to go back again. There are some differences between the people-to-people relations because I know there's still a lot of Australians that have, like, empathy to Indonesia, they love Indonesia, they teach Indonesian language there. So going back again to item of racism, I don't want Indonesia also to become racist to Australia but again we don't know much also about the Australian society. You know, we don't have lot of, like, Indonesian people who study in Australia, they don't study Australian, they study Indonesian, something like that. But in Australia we have so many Indonesianists there that learn about Indonesia. But at the same time I think we have to portray the whole of the issue on the table and we have to discuss. For example, the policy of the Government in Canberra. They have good intention to help eastern Indonesia for the development. They give lot of aids there. But if there is no communication between Canberra and Jakarta, what happens? The good intention of Australia, we don't receive as good intention. This is the idea - that Australia would like to disintegrate Indonesia. So there is a lot of thing from the policy point of view coming from Jakarta, Canberra and also the people to people. And I think also because I'm teaching Australian in the University of Indonesia, I feel so sad when Australian Government close their library in Jakarta, in Indonesian Embassy. You want Indonesia to understand about Australia but there is no access to information about Australia in Jakarta. So it's the whole lot of things that we have to learn each other.

JENNY BROCKIE: And I know we have a lot of students here in your yellow uniforms from the University of Indonesia and you all study Australia, don't you? You all study Australian politics, yeah? What are you learning about our country?

STUDENT: Desert. Large continent. Empty. 19 million people living there.

STUDENT 2: About the kind of state, about the political system in Australia, about the habits of Australians and a lot of more we study about Australia. But we have no access to know Australia more because the reason that the library in the embassy is closed since the Bali bombing.

STUDENT 3: The first impression I get from Australia is Australia is an arrogant country. Why? Because they try to bully Asia Pacific region.

JENNY BROCKIE: They try to bully Asian Pacific nations?

STUDENT 3: They claim themself as a representative of a Western country in the Asia Pacific. So there is two policies of Howard I think is so arrogant. The first - he claims himself as the deputy sheriff of United States in 1999 and, in 2002, he...he made a policy about the pre-emptive strike as a legal right to self-defence.

PRIME MINISTER JOHN HOWARD, “SUNDAY” 2002: I mean, it stands to reason that if you believed that somebody was going to launch an attack against your country - either of the conventional kind or of the terrorist kind - and you had the capacity to stop it, and there was no alternative other than to use that capacity, then of course you would have to use it.

JENNY BROCKIE: So that had a big impact on you? That comment about a pre-emptive strike had a big impact on you? And others here? Yes?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Yeah, of course. We were scared stiff, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: You are scared stiff?

WIMAR WITOELAR: Yeah. Because we could get struck any moment just because somebody is suspicious. It's just like the guy on the London subway who got shot because he was carrying a rucksack.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, those -

MAN: The Australian support of the Iraq war also counts as a defining -

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, let's get on to that. We'll get on to that in a minute. Because the pre-emptive strike issue is an interesting one and this issue of extremism comes up again and again. And the other very strong images, I think, that have had a big effect on Australians in recent times have been of the Bali bombingsWHERE 88 Australians lost their lives three years ago as well as obviously very many Indonesians and the Australian Embassy bombing here in Jakarta just a year ago. Do you understand Australia's fears of extremism? Can you understand that fear?

WIMAR WITOELAR: We are just as afraid of those extremists as Australians are. I wrote an article. I said, "When your dog has fleas, don't think that the dog is enjoying those fleas." Don't think we like having terrorists. We are scared stiff. We've had to deal with them since I was 10 years old, which means 50 years ago for your information. We've always been bothered by terrorism and we cannot get rid of them. So we know what terror is, we know what fear is and we hate them, we despise them. The Muslim majority is against terrorism. And to be thought of that we are comfortable with these lies, these fleas, these terrorists - I feel sympathy for the Australian people because they are good people, they're kind people, educated, but how come some of them are just so simplistic?

JENNY BROCKIE: Yenny, you were nodding your head then.

YENNY WAHID: Yeah. Like Wimar just said - Wimar put it succinctly - but we are as fearful of the threat of terrorism here in our own backyards as any other countries, I guess. And the fact that, like Dita said, us being a victim but also seen as being the aggressor really puts us off, you know? You know, instead of giving us any help in dealing with terrorism, we're getting all this flak about having them here. I mean, we don't choose to have these people here. They're just, they're here.

JENNY BROCKIE: Nursanita, is it a legitimate fear to have, do you think?

NURSANITA NASUTION, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Yes, you are afraid about the terrorism and I think that all the people in the world are against that. But I am very sad if terrorism is tied to the Muslims. You know, this is not true because, you know, in Indonesia, we are...most of us are Muslims but we are moderates. But I think that Islam is not the same is terrorism. If there is terrorism, I think that's because they act as the result of the international policy - maybe international policy to the Muslims so they don't like that so they act like that. But my party, the Prosperity and Justice Party, sometimes we act and make demonstrations and demonstration I think is part of the democracy. So I think that - I heard that this evening that the Prime Minister of the Australia said he wants revisions about the regulation of terrorism. I hope that Australia not be panic and change the regulations and don't obey about the human rights and also the democracy.

WIMAR WITOELAR: Sorry, sorry, my son asked me specifically to say this to the forum. Yesterday we went to this book store, a great big bookstore, I won't say the name. Now, it's almost fasting time so there's a big section of Muslim books. About 50% to 60% of the Muslim books all had a theme of how to fight terror, how to curtail terror, we are against terror. So the Muslim community is fighting very hard against terrorism. Yenny's institute, the Wahid Institute, also is doing that. So we are doing our best but it's an uphill battle. It's no help if we are accused of helping the terrorists.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah and it's interesting too because I mean Islamic extremists may be a minority but when they speak out they certainly have a big impact. And I'd like you to have a look at this report from SBS in Australia recently which includes an interview with one of the men who was convicted of the Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta. Have a look at this.


Amidst the gangsters, corruptors and drug dealers, the terrorism trials attract very little interest. Iwan Darmawan, alias Rois, is said to be the one who selected the suicide bomber for the embassy attack.

REPORTER, (Translation): I read that you said that you regret there were no Australian victims.

ROIS, (Translation): That’s not what I regret, I regret that the victims were Muslim and Indonesian. That’s what I regret.

REPORTER, (Translation): But as I asked, do you hate Australians?

ROIS, (Translation): I don’t hate Australians. I hate people anywhere who oppress Islamic people. I don’t hate Australians, but anyone who oppresses Muslims.

JENNY BROCKIE: Ahmad Syafi'i Ma'arif, what do you think of those views when you see those views?

AHMAD SYAFI’I MA’ARIF, MUSLIM LEADER: I think if we talk about terrorisms, we have to make a clear distinction. There are at least three types of terrorism - individual, groups and state-structured terrorism. I think what Mr Bush and also Israel have made is some kind of state terrorism. Therefore -

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you understand those views? I mean, do you support those views?

AHMAD SYAFI’I MA’ARIF: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I think, if you talk about terror, we are on the same boat - we have to hunt the terrorists, all kind of terrorism, to the end of the journey. So I have made a very strong statement about this many times - terrorism is the real enemy of humanity.

DESI ANWAR: Jenny, the man behind the bars is not representative of Muslims. He is a criminal. That's why he's behind bars. For the rest of us, when the Bali bombing happened, when the Australian Embassy bombing happened, when 9/11 happened, we were devastated, we were very, very - I mean, the whole thing was very, very tragic and we were extremely sorry and more so because of it happening to our guests, you know, these are the guests of Indonesia. And if it happens, say for example - we've seen so many tragedies in Indonesia, so many conflicts, so many bombings that they hardly make headlines any more but when it happened to the Australians in Bali and also the attempt at the Embassy, we in the media made it very sure that we showed our sympathy and we were extremely sorry. And that's all in sincerity because we are as disgusted, you know, when we see violence, when we see murders, when we see senseless killings. I mean, we are just as terrified of terrorism as anybody else.

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think Muslim leaders in Indonesia have been strong enough in their condemnation of those acts of violence? Syafi'i, yes.

AHMAD SYAFI’I MA’ARIF: This is the problem. OK, we have made very strong statement many times to condemn strongly all kinds of terrorism.

JENNY BROCKIE: You don't hear a lot of that in Australia.

CHUSNUL MAR’IYAH: Because the media is never interested in the moderate people. They just like to have the radical, very few unspoken. That's the problem, the problem I think is why.

DITA SARI: Why the perception is built that way? Why the opinion is built that way by the media and also by the authority? I think because the foreign policy, the Australian foreign policy needs some good ground...

JENNY BROCKIE: Just let her finish.

DITA SARI: ..needs some strong justification so that the kind of foreign policy that is chosen by Howard, by the authority of the Australians, is justified by the people. So they -

JENNY BROCKIE: Are you talking about Iraq and Afghanistan? What are you talking about?

DITA SARI; Foreign policy. And also local policy. So this kind of perception is built so the Australian people can be convinced that we need less immigrants, we need more troops sending to Iraq, we need more military budget so that more troops will be sending to Iraq.

JENNY BROCKIE: Very quickly. We are going to have to wrap up.

DR HARIMAN SIREGAR, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: You Australian got used to Suharto. When Suharto here, Australian is very polite to Indonesia because Suharto is strong. And you need people like that in Indonesia now. It's impossible.

JENNY BROCKIE: Ah. You need Suharto now?

DR HARIMAN SIREGAR: No, no, no. What you expect - like what you said.

JENNY BROCKIE: We need Suharto?

DR HARIMAN SIREGAR: You expect condemnation, strong condemnation. You need Suharto. We haven't got Suharto anymore.

JENNY BROCKIE: A diplomat here. Yes, A diplomat's voice.

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: Let's pick up a few points being made by my colleague, Dita. I think she pointed out very rightly in saying that the foreign policy that is being made by the Australian Government should be formulated in such a way that it's also sensitive to its neighbours, like us, like Indonesia, for instance. It's not only for the purpose of satisfying their constituents, that government like Prime Minister Howard that have to say something -

JENNY BROCKIE: And you don't think it is? You don't think that policy is formulated that way?

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: Well, rather than considering the relations between the two countries, I think they consider giving more emphasis on how to satisfy their constituents and -

JENNY BROCKIE: Harry, you have to stop. You have to stop! Just let him finish.

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: But I have seen so far, within this last few years, I thought there had been an improvement in the relations between the two countries, at least in the government-to-government level. And where in almost every issues that cropped up in the context of relations between the countries being communicated behind the bar, behind the scene, rather than being said, as we qualify it, as megaphone diplomacy.

DR HARIMAN SIREGAR: I remember in Suharto times - Let me speak. The intelligence of Australia always coming down with our boat. There is our fishermen always come to Australia but they never take action. They just put some intelligence there, they take a note. But now, they just burn our boats!

JENNY BROCKIE: Woah! Woah! Woah!

SADJANAN PARNOHADININGRAT: Something about future relations between us and them.

JENNY BROCKIE: I'd like to wrap up on that note. Reni, you teach Australian politics and I'm interested in knowing what you think could be done to improve the situation.

RENI SUWARSO, UNIVERSITY LECTURER: Yeah, good question. First, I want to give a comment. I want to be more fair, you know. I agree with all the previous speakers about terrorism. Islam against terrorism, yes. But we should fair to express that all religions right now tend to be more militant - it is also for Islam and also other religions. It is the first point. And the second point is I want to raise issue, the basic issue whether - we are talking about stereotyping, about Australian perceive Indonesia, and how about Indonesia perceive Australia? How many people in Indonesia realise that we have neighbour, Australia is our neighbour. We didn't talk about the extremists, no, no. We just realise whether - do we realise that Australia is our neighbour? How many people? Is it up to 50% of the Indonesian people? I don't think so.

JENNY BROCKIE: OK, so there's not an awareness of that. How can we improve the understanding between the two countries?

WIMAR WITOELAR: More people-to-people contact. When you have people-to-people contact, it's all right. I lived in Geelong for three months, never an unfriendly face. I travel in Melbourne, friendly. Never. I get my nasty moments on radio talkback shows and I get my uncomfortable moments in shows like this but, if you have people-to-people contact, everything's peachy. Australians are great.

JENNY BROCKIE: Final comment, yes.

ALPHA AMIRRACHMAN: We should have more opportunity. This is to show how we Indonesians do not really understand Australians. We might ask like, "Are you Westerner from the east or easterner from the West?" That expresses that we actually don't really know Australians and we need as Wimar said, people-to-people contact.

DESI ANWAR: Sorry, Jenny, to answer your question, maybe you should have more Australian journalists here in Indonesia. I mean, the fact that Australia is so close, you have so few journalists and mostly if they come here it's because of a particular trial. You know, Indonesia is so huge. There's so many stories to cover and I think Australians, the Australian public is missing out on a lot of great stories. And, trust me, Bali is not the only place for Australians to go on holiday to. You know? So I think it is important for more informed programs about Indonesia. Likewise, I mean, we should have more kind of exchanges, people-to-people. But definitely, I think the media does play a huge role and if the Australian media is only interested in focusing on sensationalist stories and in generating audience or readers' response by printing out emotional and sensationalism story, I think, you know, it's doing a great disservice to the Australian public that is now portrayed as, I wouldn't say arrogant, but simply sort of, in a way, well... ..unsophisticated, I'm sorry to say, with all the kind of, you know, emotional outbursts we're seeing. It's, you know, quite embarrassing.

JENNY BROCKIE: It's a very interesting note to end on. We do have to end, I'm sorry. We are going to have to finish because we are out of time. I would like to thank you all very much for joining me tonight. It's been really interesting to hear your views here in Jakarta. Thank you very, very much for being here. And that is Insight for this special edition from Jakarta.

Taken from Insight Transcripts

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