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Spying scandal: Indonesian students in Australia fearful but urged to remain calm

Meld Magazine

Fri Nov 22 2013

Spy scandal: Indoensian students in Australia urged to remain calm

INDONESIAN students in Australia are disappointed by Australia’s handling of the spying scandal, with some fearful they may be sent home as a result of this diplomatic row. Joanna Robin reports. 

Indonesia’s Education Minister, Muhammad Nuh has assured Indonesian students studying in Australia that “government-to-government” problems are unlikely to affect their studies.

Indonesia has threatened to suspend all bi-lateral agreements following allegations that the Australian government tapped the mobile phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and eight senior Indonesian officials.

Backgrounder: The spying scandal – the story so far

Currently, Indonesia and Australia enjoy a strong educational relationship, which was formalised under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Education and Training between the two nations in 1992.

There are around 19,000 Indonesian students studying in Australia at present and Indonesia is the fifth most popular destination in Asia for international study experiences for Australian university students.

Somehow if their relationship cannot be fixed, I’m scared that the Indonesian government will force us to leave Australia and we won’t be able to go to uni here anymore.” – Allegra, 19, RMIT University.

The national Indonesian student association in Australia is the PPIA.

The president of the PPIA, Pan Mohamad Faiz, contacted the Indonesian government earlier in the week and has urged Indonesian students to remain calm and “proportionally react to the recall of the Indonesian Ambassador.”

“We ask all our fellow mates, the Indonesian students in Australia to undergo the studying activities as usual and to fully respect the diplomatic measures that are being taken between the two states,” he said.

He also said the Indonesian Missions in Australia and its officials, including the Education and Cultural Attaché, had confirmed their support for Indonesian students and is ready to receive calls from those concerned about their studies.

Yonathan Christianto is the co-ordinator of the administrative division of the PPIA at Melbourne University.

He is an Indonesian student who chose to study in Australia with the hope of getting a better education than he might at home.

“In relation to the case, from an Indonesian perspective, we are hoping that this event will not cause any issues for Indonesian students. That we won’t be deported back and that we can still continue our education here,” Mr Christianto said.

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Meld Magazine got in touch with a number of other Indonesian students to see how they felt about the crisis. While students weren’t surprised by the revelation, many felt Australian could have handled the situation better. Here are some of the responses we received:

“All countries are doing it, not saying it’s the right thing to do, but it’s for the country’s best interest. Australia is only sorry that they got caught.” – Angela, 20, University of Melbourne
“I’m not really into politics stuff, but I personally feel it is not something surprising to hear, considering the Snowden saga. I do think the Australian government could have handled the case better – no offense to Aussies – instead of causing more friction between the two countries.”– Ellen, 22, RMIT University.
“I think Australia really shouldn’t have done that, because it is not appropriate to put their nose in a country’s business. The Indonesian government is already forcing the Indonesian embassy in Australia to go back to Indo, which means we as Indonesians don’t have representation here anymore. Somehow if their relationship cannot be fixed, I’m scared that the Indonesian government will force us to leave Australia and we won’t be able to go to uni here anymore.”– Allegra, 19, RMIT University.

It is unclear how the diplomatic crisis will be resolved, but the Indonesian government has promised to continue safeguarding and serving its students with regards to visa extensions and other matters.

Backgrounder: The spying scandal – the story so far