14 Oct 2012

Golf diplomacy helped catch Bali bombers

8:29 am on 14 October 2012

Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has revealed how a round of golf in Perth helped cement ties with Indonesia and bring the Bali bombers to justice.

Mr Keelty told AAP how he and then-Indonesian police chief Da'i Bachtiar forged a co-operation deal while playing golf at the Joondalup resort in Perth a few months before the bombings on 12 October when 202 people were killed.

"When you're in a golf buggy together you can talk about anything," Mr Keelty said in an interview after attending this week's 10th anniversary memorial service in Bali.

"He was telling me about the secessionist movements in Papua, and about the Free Aceh movement, and there had already been bombings in Jakarta.

"He said, 'We don't have post-blast analysis capability'. So I said, 'We'll put something together for you on the back of the deal we have just signed'. So we continued our game of golf.

"When the bomb went off Da'i rang me and said, 'Do you remember the conversation we had in the golf cart?' He said, 'I need those forensic people now'."

Golf essential

Mr Keelty said that when he was first appointed AFP Commissioner, Singapore's Khoo Boon Hui, who is now president of Interpol, told him:

"'Well, that means you're going to have to learn to play golf. That's the way you do it up here, because the Indonesians love their golf'. And it turns out to be true."

AAP says Mr Keelty praised the work of Indonesian police in bringing all of the Bali killers to justice, something he doubted could be done as he stood in the rubble of the Sari Club days after the attacks.

"If I was honest with you I'd have to say I didn't think it could be done," he said.

"I don't think I myself believed we could get on top of it as quickly as we did. And I use the royal 'we'. It's a great credit to them (Indonesian police)."

One great legacy of the successful police investigation, and the fight against terrorism generally, was that it created a secure and politically stable environment in Indonesia.

Indonesia's GDP growth of 6.5% was one of the best in Asia.

"Once you get the security situation right, then you can focus on health, education and infrastructure to help the economy grow," Mr Keelty said.

"There is now an opportunity for business to come here and help develop the country, and do well for Australia, and it's happening."

Bali vibrant again

Mr Keelty said he was pleased to see a vibrant Bali again after the terrorist attacks knocked its economy for six.

"It was dead. The hotels were empty, the businesses had shut down, the flights had stopped. It was like a ghost town. Now the place is alive again."

The successful Bali operation led Indonesia and Australia to establish the Centre For Law Enforcement Cooperation in Jakarta, which focused on trans-national crime, particularly terrorism.

"That's a very positive bricks and mortar legacy," Mr Keelty said. "There's been 11,000 students go through that.

"The other legacy is that the people who came after us, including (current AFP commissioner) Tony Negus, have continued the (Australian-Indonesian) partnership."

Ties with Bali police chief

Australia's initial co-operation with Indonesia on the Bali bombings was also aided greatly by Mr Keelty's personal friendship with Made Pastika, then Bali police chief and now the island's governor.

AAP reports the two had studied together in the 1990s, and were talking within minutes of the Kuta bombings.

Both Pastika and Bachtiar have since received Order of Australia decorations.