Indonesia criticises Asean for lax attitude on human rights

The Star Online, January 20, 2018

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s lead diplomat on Asean affairs, Jose Tavares, criticised Asean’s record, saying the region has made little progress on social issues since adopting its Declaration of Human Rights in November 2012.

Aseanis supposed to be more agile and responsive in addressing social issues.

The leadership is not only in the hands of Indonesia, but in all countries in the region. It must be a collective leadership, Jose said after a seminar on Asean’s 2018 Outlook in Kemang, South Jakarta, yesterday.

During the seminar, which was held by the Habibie Centre think tank, Jose emphasised that the Asean Secretariat had become quite bureaucratic, making it difficult for Asean to move forward, especially in addressing human rights issues.

 “Many say Indonesia must lead, but it does not have to be that way. If another country comes up with a better idea, we must support it.”

Last year, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was the first foreign minister of any country to enter Myanmar and speak directly with the relevant authorities on the Rakhine crisis.

The discussion had opened up access for Asean to distribute humanitarian aid to victims of violence and displacement in the troubled state.

In the same year, Indonesia pushed for a meeting on counter-terrorism between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to deal with terrorism in Marawi City.

“Indonesia is known to be very noisy on human rights by some member states,” said Dinna Wisnu, Indonesia’s representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commis­sion on Human Rights (AICHR).

Tavares also called Brunei, to be more flexible in running the secretariat and in executing Asean’s priority programmes this year.

Singapore, which holds the Asean chairmanship this year, has set five key priorities under the theme resilience and innovation.

They are to develop a digital economy, to further facilitate trade, to enhance the integration of services and ease investment, to foster energy security and to strengthen ties between Asean and its external partners.

Jose acknowledged that the chairs priority tends to be economic development.

However, Indonesia would push Asean and the secretary-general to also pay attention to other sectors, particularly human rights.

The secretary-generals priorities must not be inflexible because he represents Asean.

So, each issue suggested by the members must be taken into consideration, he said.