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Issues over haze, defence cooperation agreement (DCA) continue to cloud Singapore-Indonesia ties

Updated On: Aug 17, 2007

Indonesia-Singapore ties remain testy. 

The Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) continued to evoke strong sentiments from Indonesian politicians.  Using the DCA between Indonesia and Singapore as an example, opposition party Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) warned the government of possible threat from other countries through bilateral cooperation agreements. Indonesia has defense agreements with  Australia and several other ASEAN countries, and is in the process of getting some others signed, notably with China and India.  However, the DCA with Singapore is so far the most controversial one, since it includes article that allows Singapore to use Indonesian territory for military training together with a third party.  The fact that the DCA was negotiated with the Extradition treaty as a package and signed as a joint package deal in April was another point of contention. The Speaker of Parliament, Agung Laksono, is calling on the Indonesian government to separate the DCA from the Extradition treaty.  

Another issue that has dragged on was the Indonesian authorities probe into whether Temasek Holdings conducted monopolistic activities in the country.  After a 90-day investigation by the Indonesian Commission for the Supervision of Business Competition (KPPU), no conclusion was made, and instead, the investigation has been extended by another 30 days.  The KPPU’s decision to extend the probe into Temasek has been questioned by a commentary carried in the Jakarta Post.  The commentator questioned the merit of the case and openly questioned the motive behind the KPPU investigation of Temasek.  Observers also worried that this will only prolong the political debate involved in the decision and is a waste of time and resources. Experts have been criticizing KPPU for continuing this case, since it seems to have been biased from the very start and there were little evidence of Temasek violating Indonesia’s anti-monopoly law.

Supposedly to be a test case and model for bilateral cooperation to help solve the recurring problem of haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia, the haze action plan for Jambi province has stalled becauseIndonesia has yet to sign the pact.   According to Straits Times, the delay in the signing of the pact would effectively push back the proposed initiatives for Jambi province.  Jambi is Singapore's collaborative partner under Indonesia's ASEAN supported national plan to combat haze. The plans were delayed because Indonesia insisted on the letter of intent as a pre-condition for full collaboration. Meanwhile, haze has blanketed Pekanbaru, Riau for a few days now. It came from fires from Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. Thanks to the weather, prevailing winds prevented the haze from affecting Singapore.

On a visit to Indonesia, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed told the media that bilateral relations between Indonesia and Singapore remain firm and strong. He said cooperation between the two countries extend to many areas, for example Special Economic Zone on Riau Islands and Singapore’s active role in Tsunami relief operations. He also wishes to cooperate on other fields such as art and culture and other humanitarian activities such as blood donation. Such interactions, he said, will enhance the social and people-to-people ties that would serve as strong foundation of the two countries’ relations. (17 August 2007)

Sources:

Separate DCA from Extradition Treaty: Speaker (Today, 17 August 2007)

KPPU integrity on the line with Indosat case (Jakarta Post, 15 August 2007)

PDI-P warns government of foreign threat (Antara, 14 August 2007)

Hot spots up, but haze action plan still unsigned (Straits Times, 15 August 2007)

Singapore-Indonesia ties remain firm (Channel News Asia, 14 August 2007)

S'pore-Indonesia ties 'firm and strong' (Straits Times, 15 August 2007)

Probe into Temasek extended (Today, 16 August 2007)