Gus Dur warning on S’pore vessels

SUBMARINE PURCHASES

‘Don’t stray into Indonesian waters or navy will act’

PRESIDENT Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday warned Singapore that its submarines will face his navy if they strayed out of set lanes when travelling through Indonesian waters.

He said that Singapore’s submarines must not enter Indonesia’s territorial waters without permission.

“The channels we have agreed on for the passage of Singaporean war vessels should be respected,” he said.

“If they are found outside those channels, we should immediately have the courage to take firm action.”

He made these comments in an off-the-cuff speech at the opening of a seminar on maritime resources held at the Ministry of Maritime and Fishery Affairs.

Present at the meeting were Maritime and Fishery Affairs Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmaja and Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab, together with other senior government and military officials and academics.

Maintaining the sprawling archipelago’s territorial integrity was the central theme of President Abdurrahman’s 15-minute speech, in which he also stressed the need to strengthen the Indonesian navy.

“We should protect our seas, otherwise, other countries may make use of them at their own whim,” he said. Singapore vessels have limited rights of passage through Indonesian territorial waters.

Mr Abdurrahman said that he had received reports that Singapore had just purchased two submarines, and another six to eight would join them soon.

Sources at the workshop said that they did not know what sparked his comments, especially when minutes earlier, he had complimented Singapore.

He said that “as a small island surrounded by sea which belongs to Indonesia”, Singapore had developed an efficient international port.

“A lot of people use its port and have forgotten ours,” he noted. “This should not have been the case.”

Relations between the two countries have been good since he took office six months ago, and military ties have been central to the close bilateral cooperation.

Said a senior Indonesian army intelligence source: “I am surprised that the President made such a statement. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand his comments.

“Where did he get his information in this instance? It is definitely not from the military, because we have no complaints against Singapore.”

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