JAKARTA, November 11, 2009 (AFP) – Indonesia has “no problems” with extending permission for an Australian customs ship loaded with 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to stay in the country, the foreign ministry said Wednesday. Indonesia will look at any request by Australia to extend the stay of the Oceanic Viking, which is anchored off Bintan island near Singapore and is due to leave on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told AFP.
“If the clearance to stay in Tanjung Pinang is close to expiring, Australia is obliged to re-submit its application for extension and we don’t see any problems in extending it,” Faizasyah said.
“Our expectation is the sooner the issue is resolved the better for the Australians and Sri Lankans,” he added.
The ethnic Tamil migrants have refused to leave the ship and have their asylum claims heard in Indonesia after being plucked from the sea by the Australians in Indonesia’s search-and-rescue zone last month.
The Indonesian authorities say they cannot forcibly remove the asylum seekers from the ship, and local officials on Bintan have said they are not welcome anyway.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been under pressure over the standoff, which