Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

John Key offers Indonesians help to counter terrorist threat

John and Bronagh Key pay respects at Kalimata Cemetery in Jakarta. Photo / Isaac Davison
John and Bronagh Key pay respects at Kalimata Cemetery in Jakarta. Photo / Isaac Davison

New Zealand is offering help to Indonesia as it faces the threat of foreign fighters returning from the Middle East.

Prime Minister John Key was last night meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta, and the Southeast Asian country's anti-terror measures were on the agenda.

Key, who was in France at the time of the terror-related massacre in Nice last week, said France and Indonesia had some of the largest numbers of foreign fighters.

About 1000 people are believed to have returned to Indonesia after fighting for Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria.

While New Zealand is not providing intelligence to Indonesia via the Five Eyes spying network, Foreign Affairs officials say this country has offered counter-terrorism assistance and is providing information about where potential threats could come from.

New Zealand is wary about telling Indonesia how to manage its own security affairs, but wants reassurance that the country is keeping track of its many potential jihadists.

Unlike New Zealand, Indonesia has not committed troops to Iraq and Syria, partly because it fears reprisals at home.

Key said the country was instead doing "an awful lot on the ground", such as intensive measures to stifle homegrown terror.

The security outside the New Zealand delegation's hotel in downtown Jakarta speaks of a country on high alert. Armed guards with dogs patrol behind high, spiked fences, and each entrance has specialised judder bars designed to prevent car bombings. All bags go through airport-like checkpoints.

"The level of security here reflects what the Indonesian Government thinks are the real potential threats and risks," Key said yesterday.

"There's a number of risks here and what the Indonesia Government is trying to do, in a market that is home to a lot of tourists and a big domestic population, is give them confidence that they can go about their daily lives."

The security precautions have been commonplace since the devastating Bali bombings in 2002, but the threat of new attacks has risen again in the predominantly Muslim country in recent years. Four people were killed in Isis-linked shootings in central Jakarta in January.

Security analyst Paul Buchanan said the potential for homegrown attacks appeared to be rising as Isis lost ground in the Middle East.

"It's like when you squeeze a balloon. As they're being forced into retreat from the physical ground that they hold in the Middle East, they're urging their followers to carry out attacks in the West in order to weaken the resolve of the West to continue the physical assault on the caliphate."

Buchanan said there was a remote but tangible risk that these jihadists could eventually make their way to Australia or New Zealand.

NZ needs to make a stand, Greens say

New Zealand needs to do more than have a "comfortable little chat" with Indonesian leaders about human rights abuses in West Papua, the Green Party says.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said abuses appeared to be on the rise in the troubled Indonesian region, including the recent shooting of a teenager by police in relation to political activism.

While the NZ Government is expected to raise the West Papuan situation during talks this week, Delahunty says it needs to be firmer on the issue during trade talks.

"We're part of the Pacific. And this is a Melanesian country which is experiencing state-sanctioned murder, torture and arrest.

"If we are not an ethical country that is prepared to stand up, why should Indonesia ever change?"

Amnesty International NZ campaign director Meg de Ronde said the crackdown on basic political and civil rights in West Papua was concerning. She cited the case of Johann Teterissa, a teacher who is serving 15 years' jail for performing a traditional dance and raising West Papua's Morning Star flag in front of the Indonesian President.

Speaking to reporters in Jakarta yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said Indonesian President Joko Widodo was trying to be more open about the Papuan situation. He was interested in hearing the President's view "from his own mouth" when the two leaders met last night.

But Key said sanctions such as reducing aid in response to human rights concerns were highly unlikely.

- NZ Herald

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