Report – Special correspondent in Jakarta
The Indonesian and Timor-Leste governments have agreed to boost security and defence ties during a meeting between Defence Minister Poernomo Yusgiantoro and visiting Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, which was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and then Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili in 2012.
“This will include military cooperation, education and training,” Poernomo said.
He said that under the agreement, the Timor-Leste government would purchase weapons made by the Indonesian defence industry.
“Currently, Timor-Leste is building its defence capabilities, especially with regard to border patrols,” Poernomo said.
Xanana, who also serves as Timor-Leste’s defence minister, confirmed the weapons purchase.
“We will possibly buy weapons or ammunition. We need to develop our army capability, to be ready to face challenges in the future,” he said. “As long as we don’t use them to attack any country.”
Xanana said that during the meeting the two sides also discussed border protection.
“Indonesia and Timor-Leste are neighbors, we share a common border and have related issues,” Xanana said.
He said cooperation with Indonesia would be of great significance.
Last year, Yudhoyono and visiting Timor-Leste President José Maria Vasconcelos, popularly known as Taur Matan Ruak, agreed to enhance what they deemed “good relations”, as well as shoring up support for Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership bid.
The high-level meeting also highlighted disputed sections of the border that had been left unresolved for years and resolved one of the disputed sections, the Dilumi/Memo section.
The other two disputed sections (Bijael Sunan Oben and Noel Besi/Citrana), however, were left unresolved.
The two countries have managed to demarcate around 97 percent of the total land border, which spans 268 km.
Indonesia invaded and annexed Timor-Leste (at that time East Timor) a week after it declared independence from Portuga in 1975, but lost control of it after a referendum in 1999. Timor-Leste formally restored independence in May 2002.
Trade between Indonesia and Timor Leste has increased over the last few years. In 2012, the value of Indonesian exports to Timor-Leste reached US$148.8 million, but Timorese exports to Indonesia were only worth $262,000.
In 2012, the Timor-Leste government’s plan to purchase tanks and armored personnel carriers from an Indonesian defense company PT Pindad was criticised by local non-governmental organisations for lacking transparency.
Civil groups had also criticised the plan because initial tests indicated that the military vehicles were substandard.
One NGO, La’o Hamutuk, which monitors Timor-Leste economic and development affairs, reports:
During 2013, Timorese imports from Indonesia rose to $181.4 million, but the figures by destination for the other direction have not been published yet, although the total dropped significantly compared with 2012.
Indonesian weapons-makers and other manufacturers are profiting handsomely as Timor-Leste uses up its nonrenewable petroleum wealth, but the benefits for most Timor-Leste people are often hard to see.
Source: The Jakarta Post