05/01/2017 8:00 AM AEDT | Updated 05/01/2017 10:03 AM AEDT

Indonesia Says 'Insignificant Rats' Behind Military Rift With Australia

Military ties have been suspended after "offensive" material found at Aussie base.

Beawiharta Beawiharta / Reuters
Cooperation between Indonesian and Australian military has been suspended

Indonesian officials have downplayed the significance of the reported suspension of military cooperation with Australia, with the country's president denying he signed off on the move.

As reported Wednesday, Indonesia's defence force has officially suspended cooperation with Australia, due in part to an investigation into teaching materials and information provided to Australian personnel. An Indonesian officer reported in November he was offended by some material at an Australian base in Perth, which reportedly mocked Indonesia's national ideology of Pancasila, and claimed that the disputed West Papua province should be given independence. West Papua has been trying to gain independence from Indonesia for decades, with conflicts and demonstrations heating up in recent times, making it a hot button issue for our northern neighbour.

Australian defence minister Marise Payne confirmed on Wednesday that an investigation was in progress into "serious concerns" about "teaching materials and remarks at an Army language training facility".

"Indonesia has informed Australia that defence cooperation would be suspended. As a result, some interaction between the two Defence organisations has been postponed until the matter is resolved. Cooperation in other areas is continuing," Payne said in a statement.

"We will work with Indonesia to restore full cooperation as soon as possible."

But other Indonesian officials were just as confused and upset as Australian authorities were. A spokesman for Indonesian president Joko Widodo claimed "this was not a decision of the president", while defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu also downplayed the reported suspension.

"I have just heard about this. Our relationship with Australia is going great. We should not over­react," he said on Wednesday.

"It was all the doings of some lieutenants. They have been reprimanded and punished. Don't let actions of some low-ranking ­officers affect relations of two countries."

Fairfax Media reported the minister calling those responsible "insignificant rats".

Payne said the report into the material in question was being finalised.


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