Wiranto hails S’pore aid as milestone in ties

Abri and the SAF will distribute the aid together in an exercise that will also help to boost military links.

INDONESIA’S military chief, General Wiranto, yesterday said that Singapore’s decision to extend humanitarian aid to Indonesia was a “milestone” in bilateral ties.

“It is an important moment that strengthens the ties of friendship between the two nations,” he said at a ceremony here to receive the first portion of $12 million in food and medicines from Singapore.

Gen Wiranto, who is also Defence Minister, said that Abri and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would distribute the aid to needy provinces in Sumatra and Java – an exercise that was certain to boost military links as well.

In a speech delivered in Bahasa Indonesia and English, he said: “It urges us therefore to further maintain and develop such cooperation in the years ahead for our mutual benefit.”

Singapore Education and Second Defence Minister Rear-Admiral Teo Chee Hean handed over the aid in a symbolic ceremony at the Halim airbase yesterday morning.

It marked the first delivery of rice and a batch of medicines. Subsequent shipments will follow. In all, the aid involves 10,000 tonnes of rice and a large quantity of medicines.

Rear-Admiral Teo said in his speech, also delivered in English and Bahasa Indonesia, that Singapore’s offer of humanitarian assistance was a demonstration of the Republic’s concern for Indonesia in these difficult times.

He said: “Relations between our countries are friendly and strong during good and difficult times.

“We have consistently tried to assist Indonesia within our limited means since the economic crisis started. Singapore will work with the Indonesian government to bring confidence and economic recovery back to Indonesia and the region.”

He said that Gen Wiranto had agreed to the SAF helping Abri distribute the rice and medicines.

“The close coordination and cooperation between Abri and the SAF in carrying out this mission reflects the strong institutional links that Indonesia and Singapore have built over many years of cooperation,” he said.

He added that Abri’s “excellent nation-wide organisational and distribution network” would help ensure the assistance would reach those who needed it the most, including about 1.9 million people in 256 municipalities and districts living belowthe poverty line.

Another 190,000 others living in slum areas with undeveloped transport links and food shortages would also benefit from the aid.

Rear-Adm Teo yesterday held talks with Gen Wiranto.

The Indonesian Observer quoted the Singapore minister as saying that Singapore was not affected by negative reports about Indonesia because the Republic believed that “Abri moves have been in the right direction”.

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