Growing “xenophobic sentiments” in Indonesia affecting Singapore-Indonesia ties

Updated On: May 25, 2007

The signing of extradition and defence agreements by Indonesia and Singapore on 27 April has not reduced the tension between the two countries but instead seemed to have stirred up more nationalist sentiments in Indonesia.

The Jakarta Post editorial on 24 May 07 attributed this “xenophobic” tendency to Indonesia’s own “inferiority complex in the face of more advanced nations”. 

The editorial warned Indonesia about its growing xenophobic tendency as debate continues over the recent signing of extradition and defence treaties with Singapore.

Last month, Indonesia’s debates focused more on the extradition treaty along with claim that the notorious suspected corruptors are hiding in Singapore. Now political players and analysts are looking at the defence cooperation agreement (DCA) and with much suspicion. Joint military exercise has become a controversial issue in Indonesia because many legislators are unhappy with it, which allows the Singapore Defense Force to carry out military exercises in Indonesian territory. Officials from the two countries are now discussing on the implementation of joint military exercise. Both treaties have been agreed as one package, in which one could not be implemented without the other.

At the same time, nationalist cries from some Indonesians warned the government against providing Singaporewith concessions in moves to enhance bilateral ties. A strong headline in Jakarta Post says: RI told to stand up to Singapore’s new strengths. Governor of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) Muladi, and Hikmahanto Juwana, dean of the law faculty at University of Indonesia together questioned Indonesia's weak position toward Singapore as indicated by two agreements signed in Bali recently. Hikmahanto said the two agreements could be used by Singapore to interfere in Indonesia's internal affairs, "just as developed countries like the U.S.Britain and Australia had in Afghanistan and Iraq". He said Singapore's dominant role in Indonesia's economy combined with the defense cooperation agreement could give Singapore a starting point for such interference. But Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono tried to reassure that the technical manuals for its implementation would ensure Indonesia's national interests.

Secretary general of the Ministry of Defense Lt Gen Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin also tried to explain the essence of the defence agreement.  Quoted in the Antara, he said the Indonesia- Singapore Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) was not a pact. "We do not believe in pacts but in useful cooperation for mutual benefit," he said at a function on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. Asked about the concrete implementation of the cooperation, he said it would not always consist of joint military activities. Sjafrie also said "In general, the agreement will not disturb the sovereignty of the two countries although in negotiations of every international agreement there is always mutual bargaining."

Nevertheless, the extradition treaty is not less problematic. Singapore said Monday an extradition treaty with Indonesia will help crime-fighting cooperation, but could create problems as the two neighbors scrutinize each other's judicial processes. Some legal experts said extradition treaty will not bring back corruptors, let alone their assets.

Meanwhile, Indonesiaand Chinaare set to start talks on an extradition treaty between the two nations. As the first step, both countries have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on exchange of information and experience in fighting corruption. So far Indonesiahas extradition treaties with 7 countries including Malaysia, the PhilippinesThailandAustraliaHong KongSouth Koreaand Singapore. An international law expert, Dr Hikmahanto Juwana, said the idea to have all ASEAN member countries bound by an extradition treaty was positive and should be realized as it would be useful for them, including Indonesia.

After extradition and defense agreements, sand ban and haze, another challenging issue to test RI-Singapore ties is the Temasek’s ownership in Indonesia’s two large telecommunication companies. There seems to be a “nationalistic” sentiment shared by some Indonesians when it comes to foreign stake in Indonesia’s so called state-owned enterprises. It started when an Indonesian group, Setdco Group announced its plan to buyback Telkomsel’s share from Singapore’s SingTel. Out of 35% of SingTel’s share (estimated to be worth about US$ 1.6 billion), it planned to buy 22.3%. Setdco Group President Director, Setiawan Djodi said the buyback was intended to end the dispute over Telkomsel’s share purchasing process by SingTel. "Clearly, there was a mistake made by the then-Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Laksamana Sukardi.” "Even former president Megawati wrote the Singaporean government last April (to confirm) there were problems that had clouded the sale of the Telkomsel stake by SingTel -- and also of Indosat by STT Telemedia."

According to SingTel’s senior corporate communication manager, SingTel Mobile, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SingTel, bought a 22.3 percent stake in Telkomsel from KPN Mobile International BV and not from the Indonesian government, which was not sold through a tender.

Some 1,000 people, including outspoken politicians, intellectuals, experts and artists, gathered at the Ismail Marzuki Park in Central Jakarta, demanding the government buy back shares now owned by the Singaporean government in PT Indosat and PT Telkomsel.

Permadi, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle legislator, said Tuesday evening the government was obliged to buy out the foreign ownership of the domestic telecommunications industry to maintain the nation's sovereignty over its territory and assets.  Partnership executive H.S. Dillon and intellectual Emha Ainun Nadjib warned the government against divesting strategic industries, saying the sales of Indosat and Telkomsel had jeopardized state defense secrets. "The government should start campaigning for efficiency and continue the war on corruption to prevent it from selling strategic assets to cover the state budget," Dillon said.

Indonesia's antitrust agency is escalating an investigation into Singapore's Temasek Holdings over business practices in the country's mobile phone sector, the vice-chairman of the agency said. The KPPU (Business Competition and Supervisory Commission) launched a preliminary investigation after receiving a price-fixing complaint in December targeting Temasek. KPPU will follow up the investigation by questioning SingTel and STT Telemedia. KPPU Chairman Muhammad Iqbal said they found preliminary evidence that Temasek allegedly breaks Article 27 of Law No. 5/1999 on Anti-Monopoly.

Temasek’s lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said the firm would wait for official notification. 'Temasek has been questioned before in the preliminary investigation and has not been notified on the results of that investigation.'  (25 May 07)


Temasek “may have broken Indonesian laws” (Straits Times, 25 May 2007)

Indonesiawarned against xenophobia (Straits Times, 25 May 2007)

S’pore pacts must be ratified as one: Jakarta(Straits Times, 24 May 2007)

RI, S'pore focusing on joint exercise discussion (Jakarta Post, 23 May 2007)

RI told to stand up to Singapore's new strengths (Jakarta Post, 22 May 2007)

RI, Singaporetreaties to be treated as one (Jakarta Post, 23 May 2007)

Singapore: Extradition pact with Indonesiaboosts ties but may create problems (Jakarta Post, 22 May 2007)

TNI intensifying discussions on joint exercises with Singapore (Antara, 22 May 2007)

RI-Singapore defense cooperation agreement no pact: official (Antara, 22 May 2007)

Singapore to only extradite Indonesians if defence deal (Antara, 22 May 2007)

Indonesia and China to discuss extradition treaty (Antara, 23 May 2007)

Idea to conclude ASEAN extradition treaty positive: expert (Antara, 22 May 2007)

RI has extradition treaties with seven countries (Antara, 22 May 2007)

RI, S`pore continuing to formulate DCA implementation arrangements (Antara, 21 May 2007)

Negotiation on RI-China Extradition Treaty begins end of June (Detiknews.com, 22 May 2007)

Minister of Defense: Do not worry about DCA (Detiknews.com, 21 May 2007)

Parliament: DCA put Indonesia’s sovereignty at stake (Detiknews.com, 20 May 2007)

Extradition won’t bring back corruptors  (Tempointeraktif, 10 May 2007)

RI, Chinasign MOU on graft fighting (Jakarta Post, 24 May 2007)

Setdco to buyback Telkomsel (Tempointeraktif, 20 May 2007)

Government not involved in Setdco-Singtel business (Tempointeraktif, 23 May 2007)

Indonesian group wants to buy Telkomsel stake from SingTel (Straits Times, 22 May 2007)

Indon watchdog to escalate Temasek probe (Straits Times, 24 May 2007)

Sing Tel clarifies (Jakarta Post, 24 May 2007)

Setdco to buy back Telkomsel stake (Jakarta Post, 21 May 2007)

Rally demands telco buyback (Jakarta Post, 24 May 2007)

KPPU found preliminary evidence Temasek breaks Anti-Monopoly Law (Detiknews, 23 May 2007)