NS : Indonesians will lose citizenship

The ”old bilateral” issue has arisen because of the growing number who are studying and residing in Singapore.

THE Indonesian government has decided to revoke the citizenship of its nationals living in Singapore if they take part in military service while in the Republic.

The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted Information Minister Yunus Yofiah as saying after a Cabinet meeting with President B.J. Habibie on Wednesday that by doing national service, Indonesian passport holders had become Singapore citizens.

“The President orders the revocation of their passports,” he said. It was not clear immediately if there have been cases of Indonesians doing national service in Singapore.

A minister told The Straits Times that this “was an old bilateral question” which had gained significance in the last few years given the increasing number of Indonesians, particularly of ethnic Chinese descent, studying and residing in Singapore.

A 1958 law stipulates that Indonesians will have their citizenship revoked if they are inducted in the military service of a foreign country. Dual citizenship is also not allowed.

The minister disclosed that Dr Habibie, who himself was trained in Germany, was concerned increasingly about the “divided loyalties” of Indonesians.

“He once recounted to us how he was shocked while on board a Singapore Airlines flight to Jakarta to see many young Indonesian Chinese on board nearly all of whom were studying in Singapore,” said the minister, who was at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Now, we have a situation in which these Indonesians can be called up by the Singapore Government to do national service.

He wants to stop and reverse that process.”

An attempt was made last month when he tried to ban Indonesians from studying abroad. He retracted that ruling subsequently.

The minister and government sources said that the latest decision was another manifestation of Dr Habibie’s concern and a result of pressure from his inner circle of advisers.

Said presidential aide Umar Juoro: “It stems from his unhappiness that Singapore is allowing many Indonesians, particularly economic criminals, to seek refuge in the country.

“National service is just one aspect of the problem. The larger issue is preventing Indonesians from heading to Singapore in this economic crisis. Now, they have to choose between wanting to hold an Indonesian passport or a Singapore passport.”

Mr Umar, who is with the Centre for Information and Development Studies, told The Straits Times that with the economic downturn, a growing number of Indonesians are going to Singapore.

He said that Justice Minister Muladi and Cooperatives Minister Adi Sasono had raised the matter with the President several times.

They were also pushing for an extradition pact with the Republic.

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