Indonesia’s Vice-President Jusuf Kalla cautioned on Monday on the allegation that Australia paid the captain and five crew members of a boat carrying asylum-seekers last week, saying the handing of money is tantamount to bribery. The vice-president also questioned Australia’s ethics over the alleged $5,000 payment to each crew.
“Bribing is of course not according with the ethics of international relationships,” the vice-president was quoted as saying.
The boat, intercepted by Australian naval forces, was carrying migrants from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
When news erupted last week regarding the allegation, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not categorically deny paying as much as $5,000 to each crew member, sparking tensions anew between Canberra and Jakarta. The Indonesian government is pressuring Australia for an explanation.
But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop retorted by saying that Indonesia had better secure its own borders and if there was to blame, it was Indonesia for not properly managing its borders.
“The best way for Indonesia to resolve any concerns it has about Operation Sovereign Borders is for Indonesia to enforce sovereignty over its borders,” the foreign minister said.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said it was not actually difficult for Australia to respond to the question, according to the news. Marsudi also accused Australia of “deflecting the issue.”
ABC News reports that Indonesia was concerned over the state of the migrants, many of whom were children and women. But Mr. Abbott said on Tuesday that the story of the boat strengthened Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
“The great thing about stopping the boats is that has very much improved our relationship with Indonesia. We will do whatever is necessary within the law, consistent with our standards as a decent and humane society, to stop the boat because . . . that is the moral thing to do,” the Prime Minister was quoted.
Mr. Abbott added that the only issue that mattered was whether Australia stopped the boat, and the Prime Minister said “Yes.” He and his cabinet members affirmed their stance on not refusing the allegations.
Earlier this year, the relationship between Australia and Indonesia turned sour after two of the Bali 9 ringleaders were executed by firing squad amidst pleas for clemency.