Saturday, January 7, 2012

RI should apologize to PNG, expert says

Poor coordination between the Foreign Ministry and the Indonesian Military (TNI) was likely the main cause of a November incident in which two TNI aircraft intercepted a Papua New Guinea jet, an expert says.

“It seems that there was faulty coordination between the Foreign Ministry and the TNI over a VVIP flight path the PNG [falcon jet was taking],” University of Indonesia defense expert Andi Widjajanto told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The incident took place on Nov. 29 when PNG’s deputy prime minister and several senior government officials passed through Indonesian airspace on their way home from Kuala Lumpur.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neil threatened on Friday to expel Indonesian Ambassador to PNG Andreas Sitepu from Port Moresby if the Indonesian government failed to provide an explanation for the incident within 48 hours, as reported by radioaustralianews.net.au.

The ministry said later that day that the National Air Defense Command (Kohanudnas) had identified the aircraft on radar and had scrambled fighter jets to make visual contact with the aircraft, all according to standard procedure, and that no harm occurred.

But the Defense Ministry refused to acknowledge the incident, with ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin saying no aircraft had ever tried to intercept PNG’s VVIP aircraft as claimed by the PNG government.

Andi said that the Foreign Ministry and the TNI now had to work together to “limit the damage”.

“The TNI should say that their Sukhoi jets did not try to intercept [the PNG aircraft] and were conducting standard procedures, while the Foreign Ministry shouldn’t have mentioned the root and the type of the problem,” he said.

“The Foreign Ministry should instead ask [the PNG government] for an apology, without blaming the TNI.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene could not be reached for comment.

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