PNG Recalls Indon Envoy

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday 11th January 2012


THE country’s ambassador to Indonesia Peter Ilau is being recalled for consultation with the government over the Falcon jet incident over Indonesian airspace on Nov 29 last year.

Meanwhile, Ilau, who was unaware of his recall when contacted by The National yesterday, said Jakarta was "sad" at the outbursts against Indonesia by Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah.Ilau, a former PNG Defence Force commander, said he met last Friday with Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa, his deputy, four senior director-generals and the Indonesian secretary for foreign affairs and was conveyed that message.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said yesterday the recall of Ilau was part of the government’s effort to clear the incident.

"We are recalling our ambassador to Indonesia for consultation," O’Neill said.

"Cabinet has supported the continued maintenance of diplomatic relations with Indonesia as being vital to PNG’s long-term interest.

"We have decided to request the government of Indonesia through diplomatic channels to provide further explanation and clarification on certain technical matters relating to the Falcon incident with an official report.

"Cabinet further approved and directed the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority and Air Niugini to provide, within two weeks, a full report of the incident with appropriate recommendations to fully address the matter."

O’Neill said government chief secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc had been directed to coordinate with all key stakeholders of government, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Immigration as the lead player, for a diplomatic dialogue with Indonesia.

"It is our government’s desire to ensure this incident is adequately and fully resolved as soon as possible," he said

"Jakarta has noted Namah’s outburst and was sad that such public remarks could be made when the incident occurred sometime back," Ilau told The National from Jakarta yesterday.

"Natalegawa was concerned that our robust and special relationship between Indonesia and PNG should not be jeopardised by such incidents, which could be resolved amicably through diplomatic means.

"He asked if I could convey all of this to the PNG government, and if he could also speak to his counterpart as soon as possible as a mark of respect and sincerity."

Ilau said he first became aware only last Friday of November’s incident involving the Falcon jet and two Indonesian fighter aircraft.

"I was not formerly approached by anyone until 3pm Jakarta time, when I received an urgent invite by the director-general of PNG desk at the Indonesian foreign ministry for an urgent meeting with Natalegawa," he said.

"It was around the same time when I received an email from the Asia desk in PNG Foreign Affairs alerting me to the outburst by our DPM."

Ilau said Natalegawa told him that the flight clearance for the Falcon was registered on their records as Dec 3 to Dec 7 but the intrusion of their airspace was on Nov 29.

"The Falcon was intercepted in their view as a standard operational procedure when unidentified aircraft enter their territorial airspace," he said.

"Such intrusions, he advised, are standard operations procedures in most countries where threats are often expected in such approaches through their sovereign airspace.

"Natalegawa assured me over and over that at no time was there any hostile intent.

"There was no risk or harm intended.

"The response by the air force was to identify the intruder, and decide whether to get them to land at the nearest airfield or escort them out of their airspace – and the latter was the case.

"The minister then made it clear to me that they did have some unconfirmed report that an amendment request for the flight clearance may have been made through the (Indonesian) transport department, but there was no knowledge of this amendment with the ministry of foreign affairs or the TNI."