INDONESIAN president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrives in Port Moresby this afternoon from Australia where he called for regional cooperation yesterday in tackling the problem of people smuggling.
Yudhoyono and his delegation of nearly 200 are due to arrive in three aircraft at 3pm today for the two-day visit which includes a courtesy call on Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane and bilateral talks with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.
Australian media reported yesterday that Australia and Indonesia had agreed to work more closely on combating human smuggling and terrorism and would upgrade annual talks between leaders and officials to a level enjoyed by Australia’s closest ally, the US.
The Indonesian embassy in Port Moresby said the delegation included Australian-educated foreign minister Marty Natelegawa, 12 government ministers, three members of parliament and six governors.
Human smuggling has been a major concern in PNG in recent months, although PNG-Indonesia border issues may feature prominently also in talks in Papua New Guinea, observers noted yesterday.
“Australia, as a destination country and Indonesia, as a transit country, cannot resolve this issue by ourselves,” Yudhoyono said earlier at a Canberra news conference with prime minister Kevin Rudd.
“This framework would include arrangements on temporary transit in Indonesia and how they will be relocated.”
Australia has seen an increase in refugees arriving by boat in the past year, most of them reaching Australian waters via Indonesia. More than 20 boats have arrived so far this year, including a vessel intercepted yesterday, Australian media reported.
Rudd welcomed Indonesia’s plan to introduce a law this year to criminalise the smuggling of human beings as part of efforts to combat transnational crime.
Indonesia has worked closely with Australia to combat the terrorist threat posed by groups linked to al-Qaeda, and the two leaders pledged to enhance action to combat militants.
“Indonesian successes in disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks and in the arrest of terrorist leaders have dealt a significant blow to the threat of terrorism in the region,” Rudd said.
Sources said broader cooperation with PNG was due to increase as Waigani upgrades its relationship with Indonesia to include annual talks between leaders, ministers and military and law enforcement officials.
Talks are also likely to touch on how countries could work closely on climate change and regional stability through groups such as Asean where Indonesia is supporting PNG’s moves to become a full member.
Indonesia, the world’s most-populous Muslim nation and the world’s third-largest democracy, is PNG’s nearest Asian neighbour, sharing the common land border at the province of Papua.
Sir Michael will receive president Yudhoyono on arrival at Jackson International Airport where there will be a guard of honour. At 4.30pm, he will call on Sir Paulias.
The bilateral talks with Sir Michael will start at 9am tomorrow followed by signing of MoUs and a media conference before the delegation leaves on a six-hour flight to Jakarta.