S’pore wants only profits, says Gus Dur

The Indonesian leader says the Republic was manipulative in water deals and suggests to Malaysia’s PM that supplies be restricted

PRESIDENT Abdurrahman Wahid, in a virulent attack on Singapore, has said that the Republic would have no water if both Indonesia and Malaysia stopped supplies to the island.

Speaking to a gathering of fellow countrymen at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore after the Asean informal summit on Saturday, he said that Singapore tended to “underestimate the Malays” and was only interested in reaping profits. “They think that we do not exist,” he said.

He added that the water deals with Malaysia and Indonesia were an example of how the Republic had “manipulated” the two countries.

He disclosed that he had suggested to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during a breakfast meeting earlier in the day, that the two countries restrict their water supplies to Singapore.

The Republic relies on water from the Malaysian peninsula.

There are also plans to import water from the Riau islands under a 1991 agreement.

Said Mr Abdurrahman: “Singapore pays only three cents for 1,000 gallons of water and they resell it for twenty dollars. If we withhold their water supply, Singapore won’t have any more water.”

It was not clear why Mr Abdurrahman, who has a reputation for making confusing statements, launched the tirade. He said Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, for example, did not mention Indonesia in regional trade fairs and did not pay enough attention to Asean countries south of the Republic.

The strongest criticism was reserved for Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He said Mr Lee had told him during their meeting that he thought Mr Abdurrahman would resign soon.

The Indonesian leader also appeared to have been stung by SM Lee’s rejection of his proposal for Asean to rope in East Timor and Papua New Guinea.

Calling for what he described as a “West Pacific Forum” that would also include Australia and New Zealand, he said that Indonesia was not concerned if Singapore “gets angry” with the idea.

“We can also go our own way,” he said.

He added that this was what Singapore had done when it pursued policies without consulting Indonesia and Malaysia. While criticising Singapore leaders, President Abdurrahman was full of praise for Dr Mahathir for being “brave enough to take his own initiatives and not rely on anyone”.

He said: “So far, the only person who has been critical of Singapore is Mahathir. Now he has a new friend.” His bashing of Singapore, however, drew condemnation from senior politicians in Jakarta, where several leading dailies carried the President’s remarks on the front page.

Mr Heri Akhmadi, Secretary of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, the largest party in Parliament, said: “As usual, Gus Dur just made another controversial and impulsive statement …

“Please don’t take his comments seriously.

“We don’t really understand what he hoped to gain by making such a statement.”

Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung, warning that legislators would raise the matter in the House of Representatives over yet another blunder, said that Mr Abdurrahman was “out of hand in his comment”.

“The President has attempted to jeopardise ties with a country many Indonesians consider to be a friend,” he told The Straits Times.

“No one is saying that the relationship is perfect. But Gus Dur was just too hard in his criticism.

“There are also no grounds to attack Lee Kuan Yew. Your Senior Minister is an experienced and well-respected statesman. He knows what he is talking about.

“Gus Dur ought to know this.”

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