Rabu, September 03, 2014
SINGAPURA-(IDB) : President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Tuesday that he hoped Indonesia and Singapore would maintain good bilateral ties in the future, citing the signing of a deal on sea borders as an example of present goodwill between the two nations.

Arriving on Tuesday afternoon, Yudhoyono is in Singapore for a three-day state visit at the invitation of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam. The visit will be his last state visit and his final bilateral meeting with Singapore as Indonesian president.

During a press conference at Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport prior to departure, Yudhoyono said the signing was “one of the achievements” between the two countries, saying that border negotiations between any two nations were “not an easy process”.

In Singapore, the outgoing Yudhoyono is set to have separate meetings with Tan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

On Wednesday, Yudhoyono and Lee will witness a signing of a treaty related to the delineation of the territorial boundaries of the two countries in the eastern part of the Singapore Strait, an area incorporating Indonesia’s Batam Island and Singapore’s Changi. The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs have confirmed the treaty would be signed on Wednesday.

Despite the move being lauded as the start of better relations between the two neighbors, Yudhoyono seemed poised to leave behind two other problems that have hampered relations; the trans-border haze and the absence of an extradition agreement between the two countries.

Last month, Singaporean legislators passed the Trans-boundary Haze Pollution Act, a new guideline that enables regulators to prosecute local and foreign companies involved in illegal forest fires that trigger severe air pollution in Singapore.

However, observers have played down the new law, saying it might not deter the culprits due to enforcement difficulties and problems posed by the investigation of illegal activity in foreign jurisdictions.

Yudhoyono also announced that the two countries would take stock of what the two had achieved over the past 10 years, saying that he hoped the two countries would continue to improve bilateral ties with the incoming administration under president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“Of course we will address Indonesia’s hopes to the President and Prime Minister because relations are good, particularly in the fields of investment and trade,” Yudhoyono said.

Yudhoyono added that to combine both countries’ potentials — Indonesia’s potential economic growth and Singapore’s strengths as an economic center — a trade center and a service center “would bring real benefit for both Singapore and Indonesia”.

Singapore ranked as one of Indonesia’s top investors in 2013, with US$4.7 billion worth of investment in various sectors, ranging from infrastructure development to services. Trade, meanwhile, stood at $74.8 billion, making Indonesia Singapore’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Having praised the sea border deals, Commission I lawmaker Helmy Fauzy of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), one of the five political parties that officially nominated Jokowi, said the Jokowi administration must scrutinize and carefully craft its response to the Singapore haze law.

“Trans-border haze is a delicate problem, as is the Singaporean law which challenges our jurisdiction. Therefore, the [next] government must think carefully and at the same time plan moves to jointly tackle haze,” he said.

Singapore and Indonesia actually signed an extradition treaty and a defense cooperation agreement as a package back in 2007. The treaty stated that Singapore would make the extradition of Indonesian corruptors possible, while Indonesia would allow Singapore to hold military training exercises on the island of Sumatra. However, Indonesian lawmakers have yet to ratify the package, citing fears that it would trigger losses.

“The problem is that the treaty was made in the same package with the defense agreement,” Helmy said.

The next administration, as well as House of Representatives members, should weigh bilateral ties proportionally, as Indonesians do not want agreements that only provide disadvantages at the cost of improving ties with Singapore, said University of Indonesia professor and international law expert,
Hikmahanto Juwana.

“We can ask Singapore for a renegotiation of the extradition treaty separately from the defense one,” he added.

Indonesia and Singapore officially opened diplomatic ties in 1966, a year after Singapore declared its independence on Aug. 9, 1965, after breaking away from Malaysia.

Source : JakartaPost

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