Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - Palestine has had, and will always, have a special position in Indonesian foreign policy. Despite regime changes in the country, the Indonesian Government and its people have never changed their staunch support for the Palestinian people`s unfinished struggle for their independence.

Jakarta`s political stance on the Palestinian issues has even been unchanged since the era of President Soekarno. In 1962, this founding father of Indonesia had uttered a statement, which was then used as a guidance in the Indonesian foreign policy on the Palestinian issues.

President Soekarno stated: "As long as the freedom of Palestine has yet to be returned to the Palestinians, then it will forever be for Indonesia to stand in defiance against the occupation by Israel."

President Joko Widodo repeated the founding father`s statement in his speech delivered at the Opening of the 5th Extraordinary Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, held in Jakarta on 7 March 2016.

Indonesia`s concrete support for the unfinished struggle of the Palestinians has been shown by its diplomats and state officials at the United Nations and other international forums. At the grassroot level, the staunch support for Palestine is also strong and demonstrated in various ways.

Therefore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s statement that "He wanted to promote diplomatic ties with Indonesia, the country with the world?s largest Muslim population" (Raphael Ahren, October 14, 2018) will never be responded to or considered by current and future governments of Indonesia.

Instead of responding to Netanyahu`s persuasive statement, the Indonesian government has further demonstrated its concrete support for the Palestinians` struggle for freedom that has been robbed by Israel, with the supports of the United States of America and many of its allies, including Australia, for decades.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi hinted that Indonesia was committed to providing a financial contribution of US$7 million to Palestine. "This is a concrete contribution of both the government and people of Indonesia for Palestine," she told journalists during a joint-press conference with her Palestinian counterpart, Riad Malki, on October 16.

As part of the financial aid, Indonesia would significantly increase its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from US$200,000 to US$2 million for the 2019-2020 term.

According to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry`s press statement, the Indonesian people assisted their brothers and sisters in Palestine by donating US$2.92 million and supplying 2,000 tons of rice. Part of the financial aid was distributed by the country`s charitable organization, the Tahir Foundation.

The foundation, owned by Indonesian philanthropist Dato Sri Tahir, contributed US$1.3 million to UNRWA, while the National Alms Agency (BAZNAS) would also provide donated funds for Palestinian refugees through UNRWA and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has also been discussing a plan to build an Indonesian hospital in Al Khalil (Hebron). As part of the total amount of US$7 million, US$2 million would be used by the Indonesian Government for supporting the three-year cooperation on capacity building, including as part of the CEAPAD (Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development) framework.

Minister Retno Marsudi said the capacity building program was expected to have a direct impact on the prosperity of the Palestinians, as well as the independence of the Palestinian state.

Indonesia`s commitment to assisting Palestine can be observed from such concrete actions as training Palestinian government officials and citizens, so that they have appropriate skills in governance, law enforcement, monitoring food and drugs, commercial pilot license certifications, and many other technical matters.

This year, a total of 1,887 Palestinians have participated in Indonesia`s initiated capacity building programs, while next year there is also a plan to provide 90 other Palestinian government officials and citizens with a variety of necessary skills, including good governance and breeding tropical fruits.

On Monday (Oct 15), as part of Palestinian Solidarity Week for commemorating the 29th anniversary of Indonesia and Palestine`s diplomatic ties, Indonesia`s National Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) organized an upgrading program.

The program, highlighting the theme "Strengthening Cooperation in the Field of Drug Control Through Knowledge Sharing" for Palestinian officials, was part of Indonesia`s South-South Cooperation commitment for improving the abilities of Palestinian officials.

The first stage of this upgrading program is being held from October 15 to October 19. It is simultaneously being held with the convening of the Palestinian Solidarity Week in Jakarta, which takes place from October 15 to October 21.

During the upgrading program, the participating Palestinian officials were assisted in improving their food and drug monitoring skills, in connection with the authorization for clinical examinations and marketing, and regulation inspections, said Head of BPOM Penny Lukito.

The participants` skills in laboratory testing, vaccine releases, pharma-covigilance, and surveillance, were also developed at the upgrading program. The cooperation that the BPOM is building with its Palestinian counterparts can be extended to sectors closely related to its authorities.

"This is our first cooperation, which will be run in a multi-year mode. In the future, we are going to have economic cooperation in which our markets and our export and import activities among Muslim-majority countries will get better," she said.

The first year of this technical cooperation would focus on responding to challenges that the Palestinian people are facing in the health sector, including limited access to generic medicines and self sufficiency in pharmaceutical supplies.

What the BPOM has been doing is just an example of how Indonesia is sincere in implementing the message of the nation`s founding father, Soekarno. Indonesia will always be with Palestine, one of several nations in the Middle East that immediately announced its recognition of Indonesia`s independence on August 17, 1945.


Reporter: Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Otniel Tamindael
Copyright © ANTARA 2018