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Difficulties over ratification of Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between Indonesia and Singapore

Updated On: Jun 15, 2007

Indonesia’s defence minister, Juwono Sudarsono did not seem as brave and confident as he was at the previous meeting with the parliament, when he explained the Defence Cooperation Agreement betweenIndonesia and Singapore.

A few days ago, he said that Indonesia's ratification of the Defence Cooperation Agreement was held up because Singapore had rejected Indonesia's proposal for training arrangements to be determined jointly by the two sides.

This statement has puzzled Singapore, which through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs countered Mr Sudarsono’s comment by saying that the content of the agreement is not subject to any changes. The reason why the four associated Implementing Agreements (IAs) was postponed to May 7 was due to administrative and logistical reasons.  Unfortunately, the May 7 signing did not materialize as Indonesia had requested changes which Singapore could not agree to. Mr Sudarsono said earlier in June that Jakarta wanted to spell out how often Singapore's armed forces conducted firing exercises in Indonesia.Singapore has said such an arrangement would be inflexible and require 'substantive changes' to the agreement.

Singapore on Wednesday warned Indonesia that a bilateral defence pact could fall through if Jakarta were to insist on making last-minute changes to the text. 'Nevertheless, in the interest of good relations between the two countries, Singapore had earlier conveyed to Indonesia a proposal on “how we can move forward on this issue, we are waiting for Indonesia's response to our proposal”, MFA said.

Juwono’s surprising stance is believed to be influenced by strong political pressure from the parliament. Most party factions in the House of Representative seem to reject the DCA and to be intent on refusing to ratify it.

"The National Mandate Party Faction (F-PAN) will refuse to ratify the agreement because it holds out many disadvantages for Indonesia and may even cause the Indonesian government to suffer losses," Joko Susilo, a PAN faction member who also sits in the House`s Commission I (foreign affairs and defense), said to Antara on Tuesday. In a similar vein, Effendi Choirie, a member of the Nation`s Awakening Party Faction (F-PKB), said his faction was in agreement with other party factions that the defense agreement with Singapore should not be ratified.

 Earlier, the United Development Party Faction (F-PPP), the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle Faction (F-PDIP) and The Golkar Party Faction had declared their refusal to ratify the agreement.

In Indonesia, this issue has become a hot debate, be it on the media or among political players and observers. Many react emotionally, bringing up nationalism sentiment as the main concern. The Indonesian government may draw some lessons from such harsh response from the parliamentarians. It should have consulted the House prior to signing any international agreement, especially if it concerns such a sensitive issue.  (14 June 2007)

Sources:

Singapore warns Indonesia over defence pact (Antara, 13 June 2007)

MFA SPOKESMAN'S COMMENTS (13 June 2007)

S'pore 'puzzled' over Indon's claim of delay (Straits Times, 13 June 2007)

Singapore holding up defence pact, Indonesia says (Straits Times, 11 June 2007)

Most factions in House reject defense pact with Singapore (Antara, 12 June 2007)

PAN Opposed to plan to ratify extradition treaty with S`pore (Antara, 12 June 2007)

Singapore holding up defence pact, Indonesia says (Antara, 12 June 2007)

PPP rejects Indonesia-Singapore defense agreement (Antara, 11 June 2007)