Indonesia has hinted at prisoner swap deals with Australia and other countries, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa reportedly saying the transfer of people “is a good thing.”
Natalegawa told Australian editors during an interview in Jakarta that Indonesia was in talks with Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and France about prisoners.
“We get it. I get it. The transfer of people is a good thing,” Natalegawa said, the Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday.
“We are comparing notes with other countries, the lessons learned, and understanding the Australian experience. These discussions are still ongoing… but we see benefits.
“I hope this issue can be settled sooner rather than later.”
Australia would be keen to see high-profile prisoners such as Bali drug-smuggler Schapelle Corby brought home to finish her sentence, while Indonesia has low-level people-smugglers, many young and uneducated, in Australian jails.
“We must empathise with each others’ outlook,” Natalegawa said.
“The transfer of sentenced people has developed and evolved. Such a transfer would not be bespoke for one or two people; it would be good for the long term.”
The issue of boat people has been a thorn in Canberra’s close relationship with Indonesia, with many poorly equipped boats laden with asylum-seekers using the Asian country as a staging post for their journey to Australia.
Natalegawa rejected the idea, put forward by Australia’s conservative opposition, that boat people be “pushed back” to Indonesia, describing the plan as “quite unhelpful to be honest.”
“Do we push these people back to where? It’s like a chain. Where does it all end?” he said.
“I get the point that all countries have to help. Every country has to get their house in order. That I get.”
But he said Indonesia and Australia recognised that national policies must be built on regional policies.