Indonesia: Apology is not enough | Dailytrust

Indonesia: Apology is not enough

Last week, a video surfaced on social media of three Indonesian immigration officials rough-handling a Nigerian diplomat in a moving vehicle. The viral video caused instant outrage in Nigeria and across the world, and rightly so. In the footage, two of the Indonesian officials held the diplomat, now identified as Abdulrahman Ibrahim, while the third assaulted his face. Mr Ibrahim could be heard screaming “I can’t breathe. My neck, my neck. I can’t breathe.”

The Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acted swiftly and condemned the incident as “unacceptable and unfortunate.” An initial statement by Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs read: “The Nigerian Government has complained strongly to the Government of Indonesia, and the Ambassador of Indonesia to Nigeria was summoned by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

Unfortunately, Indonesian government officials, both in Abuja and Jakarta, had first sought to make light of the matter. In his presentation to Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama on Monday 9th August, a copy of which was obtained by several Nigerian newspapers, the Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria, Usra Harahap, refused to even acknowledge that Mr Ibrahim was assaulted by his country’s immigration officials.

Instead, Mr Harahap had claimed that Mr Ibrahim was at fault. According to him, the Nigerian diplomat refused to identify himself properly to the Indonesian immigration officials and became aggressive in the course of his interrogation by the officials. “Abdulrahman elbowed the immigration officer, Mr. Laode Hauzan Baidi, who was sitting next to him until Mr. Laode’s lip was bleeding.

“This led to other officers restraining him from attacking another officer during the trip. However, Mr Abdulrahman kept on resisting and shouting to the point where it required officers to hold and calm him down.

“The officers did this for the sake of security and safety as they were carrying out the Immigration Duties and Functions,” Mr Harahap reportedly told Mr Onyeama of the incident.

But the Nigerian government was not convinced by Mr Harahap’s explanation, and wrote a strongly worded protest letter to the Indonesian government, describing the incident as “an egregious act of international delinquency.” The federal government also recalled its Ambassador to Indonesia, Usman Ogah for consultations and “a review of bilateral relations” between the two countries.

Indonesia promptly issued an apology to Nigeria and announced that it had launched a formal investigation into the incident. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs regrets the incident on August 7th. This is an isolated incident, and is in no way related to the commitment of the Indonesian government in carrying out its obligations as host country or in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah said in a statement.

It is not yet clear whether the Nigerian government has accepted this apology. But we condemn, in the strongest terms possible, Indonesian officials’ assault on a Nigerian diplomat serving in their country. We condemn the immigration officials’ excessive use of force on a defenseless person, even if he were not a diplomat. No one deserves such violent and humiliating treatment at the hands of law enforcement agents, diplomats or not.

We equally frown at the Indonesian Ambassador’s unconvincing attempt to blame the victim by using a well-known boastful expression among Nigerians as a ploy. As a diplomat in another country, Mr Harahap should know that an assault on a diplomat by officials of their host nation amounts to an attack on the integrity and sovereignty of the country they represent, in this case, Nigeria. This is completely unacceptable.

Relations between Nigeria and Indonesia have always been warm, and the two countries’ leaders have exchanged state visits twice each since 2001. Both countries have bilateral agreements in oil and gas, agriculture, aviation, and anti-corruption and drug trafficking. Trade between the two countries is in excess of $2 billion annually, and Nigeria accounts for over 21% of Indonesia’s total trade with Africa. Some 15 Indonesian companies currently operate in Nigeria, including IndoFood, producers of the very popular instant noodle, Indomie.

We therefore note, with dismay, that it is only when Nigeria threatened to review these relations that the Indonesians saw it fit to issue an apology. And while we commend the federal government for standing up for Nigeria and urge it to accept the Indonesians’ apology in the interest of peace, we insist that more should be done. The Indonesian government must follow through with its investigation of the incident, and if found wanting, must sanction the officials involved and pay compensation to Mr Ibrahim.

Above all, the Indonesian government must ensure such incidents do not happen again.

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