Indonesia says it won’t respond to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “threats” which appeared to link Australian aid to the fate of the Bali Nine ringleaders facing execution.
Mr Abbott has made his strongest comments yet on the cases of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, reminding Indonesia it received $1 billion in Australian aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
“We will be letting Indonesia know in absolutely unambiguous terms that we feel grievously let down,” he said.
“Let’s not forget that a few years ago, when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent a billion dollars worth of assistance, we sent a significant contingent of our armed forces to help in Indonesia with humanitarian relief, and Australians lost their lives in that campaign to help Indonesia.
“I would say to the Indonesian people and the government, we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.”
Nine Australians died when their helicopter crashed while providing humanitarian aid after the Nias earthquake in Sumatra in 2005.
The comparison was not well received in Jakarta.
Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters he hadn’t studied Mr Abbott’s comments, but understood he had made a link to “the issue now in Indonesia”.
“But what I know is this, threats are not part of diplomatic language … and from what I know, no one responds well to threats,” he said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the prime minister was not threatening to withdraw aid.
She recognised Australia’s aid contribution was a drop in the bucket of Indonesia’s total budget and stressed it was a separate issue to the current tension over the death penalty.
“The fact is our aid budget is subject to completely separate considerations,” she told Fairfax radio on Wednesday.
“There is going to have to be a cut to the aid budget across the board.
“But I’m not linking the two.”
Mr Abbott’s comments came as the Bali Nine drug smugglers got at least a few days’ grace from the firing squad.
Indonesian Attorney-General HM Prasetyo on Tuesday delayed plans for the Australians to be transferred this week to the execution site, Nusakambangan island.
Five prisoners are already on the island awaiting the firing squad and he admitted work needed to be done to prepare it for so many executions at once.
Lawyer Julian McMahon welcomed the much-needed breathing room.
It was good news for the men and their families, and for the lawyers preparing a case for the administrative court next week.
Mr McMahon says it should also take some pressure off the governments involved.
Their discussions were a matter of life or death, he said, and should go on with an “attitude of friendship, co-operation and listening”.
“By having a little bit of time, extra time, I’m sure everyone involved can take advantage of that to do these things with the appropriate wisdom that we citizens of both countries want all of our leaders to have,” Mr McMahon said after visiting the men.
“So I’m feeling very relieved and grateful that here is these extra days.”
The challenge in Jakarta administrative court next week concerns President Joko Widodo’s blanket refusal of clemency for all drug offenders on death row, without looking at their cases on merit.
Lawyers argue the cases of Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, are different because they have achieved an extraordinary level of rehabilitation in the decade since their heroin smuggling attempt.