Boost for Singapore-Jakarta ties

DPM Tan hails more intelligence-sharing on terror; talks on to cover Indonesian electronic items in FTA with America.

Singapore said yesterday that it was happy with the increased level of cooperation with Indonesia in fighting terrorism.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tony Tan said this after his meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. He had arrived here earlier in the day on a three-day official visit.

‘We are happy with the increased level of cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia, particularly in the field of intelligence cooperation,’ he told reporters. Indonesian Defence Minister Matori Djalal said later that there would be more information exchange between both sides as one key way of fighting terrorism in the region.

There has been quiet recognition among Indonesian defence and intelligence officials that more needs to be done in cracking down on extremist elements in the country.

Counter-terrorism was just one of several security-related issues discussed by Dr Tan in his meetings with Ms Megawati and Mr Matori yesterday.

Piracy was also on the agenda. Dr Tan said the matter was one of ‘increasing concern’. The Kuala Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau recently described Indonesian waters as the most pirate-infested in the world.

Dr Tan noted that the Singapore and Indonesian navies had been working for years to fight piracy.

He said this cooperation would continue under the Indonesia-Singapore Coordinated Patrol that celebrated its 10th anniversary in June.

Both sides yesterday agreed on the importance of cooperation on transnational problems such as terrorism and piracy, and Dr Tan’s comments once again underscored the importance of defence links as a key pillar in bilateral relations.

Military ties between Indonesia and Singapore go back nearly 30 years and have withstood occasional bumpy rides in relations. There have been annual joint naval exercises since 1974, air exercises since 1980 and army exercises since 1989. Lieutenant-General Johny Lumintang, secretary-general at the Indonesian Defence Ministry, told The Straits Times that Dr Tan’s visit was important because it would serve to bolster the already strong ties between both defence establishments. Based on yesterday’s discussions, it was clear that the two nations were moving forward in other areas also, namely economic cooperation.

Dr Tan disclosed that Singapore’s free-trade agreement with the United States could be ready by the year-end, and discussions were under way to include electronic products from Indonesia.

‘President Megawati has welcomed this,’ he said. ‘This will be a further factor in helping the Indonesian economy recover.’ Dr Tan, who will meet Vice-President Hamzah Haz and Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung today, said Ms Megawati’s 12-month administration had promoted economic recovery and restored political stability.

He said: ‘We believe that a lot has been achieved and, with the right direction given by President Megawati, this progress will continue.’

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