Indonesia, Malaysia hope Asean unity will prevail

Hanging of convicted Filipino maid ———————————-
MALAYSIA and Indonesia yesterday expressed the hope that Singapore and the Philippines would settle their differences over the hanging of a convicted Filipino maid amicably and not allow the row to jeopardise regional unity.

“We must not do anything to undermine and jeopardise our own longer regional and strategic interests,” Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told a news conference in Singapore after receiving the Republic’s highest military award.

“We hope that the problem will go away or blow over and that wider interests will prevail,” he said, adding that Asean’s success and viability as an organisation would override any bilateral problems in the region.

Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, Foreign Minister Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia felt Asean countries should not allow problems between them to jeopardise their good bilateral relations.

“We hope there will not be any action that can cause a break in ties among Asean members,” he told reporters after attending a meeting between Malaysian and Lebanese delegations.

While most Malaysian dailies downplayed the diplomatic troubles between the Philippines and Singapore over the execution of Flor Contemplacion convicted of murdering another Filipino maid and a four-year-old Singapore boy – the Star and the Utusan Malaysia made it their front page leads.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said his country deeply regretted the strain in relations between Singapore and the Philippines.

Responding to questions from reporters yesterday, and separately at a parliamentary commission hearing on Wednesday night where the issue was also raised, he said Indonesia hoped “cooler heads would prevail”.

He told the parliamentary commission, which oversees foreign affairs, defence and security matters, that he hoped there would soon be an easing of the strain in relations.

“It is deeply regrettable that the issue has seen the emergence of emotions on the Philippine side to the extent that it has resulted in disturbances to relations between Singapore and the Philippines,” he said.

Legislators Krissantono from the ruling Golkar and Sabam Sirait from the Indonesian Democratic Party had asked Mr Alatas whether Indonesia was taking any steps to address the issue and how Indonesia, as an “older brother”, viewed the development.

Mr Alatas, who spoke to reporters yesterday before a ministerial meeting with Vice-President Try Sutrisno, said there was no plan by Indonesia to intercede, saying that the matter was for Singapore and the Philippines to deal with.

The row between the two countries has received extensive coverage in Indonesia.

The media is following the case closely partly because it involves two near Asean neighbours, and also because Indonesia has a many workers overseas, including many as maids in Singapore. – By Derwin Pereira, Ismail Kassim and Paul Jacob.

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