KUPANG, KOMPAS.com - The United States and Australia should have involved Indonesia in their talks on the setting up of a US military base in Darwin, an international law observers, Welem Wetan Songa, said here Wednesday.
Indonesia’s involvement was important because in the long term it was the Indonesian government and people that would be impacted by the presence of the US military base in Darwin, Welem said commenting on the United States’ plan to build a military base in Darwin, Northern Australia, starting in 2012 by stationing 2,500 marines there.
"If it is in the interest of the United States and Australia to set up a military base in Darwin, that is their own affair. But they should have felt a moral obligation to involve Indonesia in their talks on the matter because the presence of a US military base in Darwin would have a very wide impact on Indonesia as Australia’s close neighbor," he said.
If there was an armed conflict, he said, Indonesia would be affected as it then might have to accept refugees or see its environment being polluted by the wastes of military activities, Welem said.
But if Indonesia had been involved in the US-Australia negotiations, its government would have gained full knowledge of the risks of the presence of the military base and been able to take steps to anticipate the impact as early as possible.
The United States and Australian governments should have from the beginning had the good sense of establishing communication with the Indonesian government to jointly discuss the setting up of US military base in Darwin, he said.
Washington and Canberra should have at least given a formal notification to the Indonesian government with recommendations regarding the negative impact of the military base’s presence as reference for the government in taking anticipatory measures.
He said Indonesia had a bitter experience when the Australian government built a military base in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara province in 1940. The existence of the Australian military base caused material damage and social problems. However, the Australian government did not care and never thought of offering compensation for the damages.
Therefore, it was important for Indonesia to be included in the negotiations on the construction of a US military bases in Darwin so that there would be a legal basis for Indonesia to take legal action if the presence of the base impacted on Indonesia, especially in areas bordering Australia such as East Nusa Tenggara, Welem said.
The Indonesian government also should not just wait but must proactively develop communication, at least with the Australian government to discuss the US military base issue, he added.