Why Gus Dur is not happy with Singapore

President Abdurrahman Wahid on Saturday spoke to about 200 Indonesians in Singapore at a closed-door meeting at the Indonesian Embassy. During his 30-minute speech, he criticised Singapore and its leaders. A transcript of the remarks was obtained by The Straits Times. We reproduce excerpts of his comments:

“THE existing multilateral arrangements between Indonesia and Asean countries are not enough for Indonesia. We should not rely only on the Asean model. We should look for other models.

Two days ago, I met Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. I asked him to consider admitting East Timor and Papua New Guinea to Asean. But Lee Kuan Yew rejected the idea. Usually, if Lee Kuan Yew says no, the others will say no. So be it.

If that’s the case, Indonesia is going to set up a new pact which will include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, Australia and New Zealand. The Philippines can join us if they want. Maybe, I would call it the West Pacific Forum.

It appears that Singapore and some other countries in the region appear to only want to develop relations with China. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong never mentions the southern part of the Asean region. So be it. Goh can go his own way.

And we can also go our own way.

I don’t think it will be a problem for Indonesia if Singapore gets angry with us for establishing new ties with other countries without letting them know.

When Singapore set up a defence pact with New Zealand and Australia, they did not tell us anything. They also did not tell Indonesia and Malaysia when Singapore opened up a port to service US Navy ships. So be it. If they think they can go their own way, we also can do it.

We can do well without Singapore because basically Singaporeans underestimate the Malays. They think we do not exist. Lee Kuan Yew thinks I will be stepping down soon. I don’t want to blame him because many people in Indonesia also think like that. Let’s just wait and see.

From my meeting with Lee Kuan Yew, it has also become clear that Singapore is only looking to reap profits from its relations with its neighbours. You know, Singapore is a trading nation.

When I proposed that East Timor and Papua New Guinea should be included into Asean, Lee Kuan Yew said that they would be a burden for Asean. But for me, the most important thing in a relationship is solidarity.

Goh Chok Tong has in several trade fairs in the region never mentioned anything about Indonesia. What he mentions repeatedly are Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. But actually, that is our mistake because we have in the past always been dependent on Singapore.


So far, the only person who has been critical of Singapore is Mahathir. Now Mahathir has a new friend …

Thank God, Mahathir Mohamad was brave enough to take his own initiatives and not rely on anyone. He has obtained excellent outcomes.

You can see this from his achievements in information technology and the island of Johor. These have really upset Singapore.

Thirty per cent of ships that are supposed to unload in the port of Singapore now unload in Johor because it is cheaper.


Now, let me turn to water. When I met PM Mahathir this morning during breakfast, I asked him why he did not control the water supply to Singapore. Singapore only pays 3 cents for 1,000 gallons of water and they resell it for $20.

So, we have been manipulated by Singapore. If we withhold the water supply, Singapore won’t have any more water. Don’t be afraid. Our interests should come first. The interests of other people should come in second …

Let me highlight another ploy by Singapore. Singapore has international patents to 140 different types of rattan. How can they? Does Singapore plant rattan? No. They get it from Indonesia. We are the biggest producer of rattan in the world.

So, we should break the patent rule. I don’t care. If they want to pick a fight, let’s fight. We have been manipulated …Some of Senior Minister Lee’s advice are useful and some are not. It does not mean I have to be beholden to his advice. Heis only an adviser in name.”


“We do not need to follow Singapore’s advice to master the English language for information technology.

If necessary, we can use the Arab language. If we want to communicate with the Europeans, we can use French. Why do wehave to use the English language? … “

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