Indonesia could release a “human tsunami” of more than 10,000 asylum seekers to Australia if Canberra continues to give Jakarta grief over the execution of two Australian nationals for drug offenses, an Indonesian minister warned earlier this week.
Over the past few weeks, Australia has been repeatedly urging Indonesia not to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” heroin smuggling gang. The incident has roiled ties between the two nations, with Indonesia taking particular offense at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Jakarta “reciprocate” for the $1 billion in aid Canberra contributed following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Australia has also warned of diplomatic consequences should the executions be carried out.
At a university speech broadcast on local television, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, seemed to offer a threat of his own by stressing that Jakarta could stop helping Canberra ease the flow of asylum seekers into the country.
“If Canberra keeps doing things that displease Indonesia, Jakarta will surely let the illegal immigrants go to Australia,” Tedjo said on Metro TV according to Fairfax Media.
“There are more than 10,000 [asylum seekers] in Indonesia today. If they are let go to Australia, it will be like a human tsunami.”
He also said it was “no big deal” if Australia halted trade ties with Indonesia after the executions.
“We have calculated in fact, Australia enjoys the surplus on the Indonesia-Australia trade,” he said.
“Australia will in fact receive pressure domestically if it stops its livestock exports to Indonesia since Indonesia is Australia’s main market.”
Asked later to respond to Tedjo’s “human tsunami” comment, Abbott refused to reply directly, saying that he was not “in the business of picking fights with anyone.”
Chan and Sukumaran are reportedly currently in an island prison in Indonesia awaiting execution. Abbott said Tuesday that he was still waiting to speak to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo five days after he had requested the conversation.
“The request is a standing request. It hasn’t yet been accommodated, but it’s a standing request and I hope that I can have a conversation with him as soon as possible,” he said.
Indonesia has thus far maintained its tough stance on the matter, stressing the urgent need to crack down on the country’s drug problem which the Jokowi administration has made a priority.