Jakarta protests to Singapore envoy

SM LEE’S REMARKS ON TERRORISM As demonstrators protest outside Singapore Embassy, Indonesia says the comments could scare away investors.

The Indonesian government, warning that bilateral ties could sour, has lodged an official protest with the Singapore Embassy here over recent remarks by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who said that terrorist leaders were at large in the country.

And political temperatures continued to rise yesterday, with Vice-President Hamzah Haz demanding a clarification on the comments as about 50 Muslim hardliners demonstrated outside the embassy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahid Supriadi said that Mr Lee’s remarks implied that the Indonesian government was not doing anything to fight terrorism.

‘That is not the case,’ he said. ‘That is why we are upset and want a clarification. We just want to set the record straight.’ He made it clear that, unlike Singapore or Malaysia, Indonesia did not have laws like the Internal Security Act, allowing people to be arrested without ‘hard proof’ of involvement in extremist activities.

He said that Singapore’s interim envoy, Mr Wong Chow Ming – acting on behalf of Ambassador Edward Lee who was out of the country – had met Indonesian acting director-general for political affairs Rezlan Izhar Jenie on Wednesday, during which such points were put across.

He noted: ‘Our relationship can be affected if Singapore does not understand Indonesia’s sensitivities.’ The diplomatic protest followed criticism here of Mr Lee’s remarks in a speech last Sunday.

He said that the masterminds of the arrested Jemaah Islamiah (JI) members were still at large in Indonesia, and that the danger to Singapore would go away only when the nests of Al-Qaeda-trained operatives in the region were broken up. Indonesian officials and legislators have rejected his comments as unsubstantiated and said he was interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.

National Assembly chairman Amien Rais said that Mr Lee had ‘acted like the mouthpiece of President Bush’ and called for an apology.

Mr Hamzah said yesterday that Mr Lee’s comments could scare away foreign investors.

‘Such statements won’t only affect investors politically but also in an economic sense. That’s why we need a clarification,’ he said.

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Indonesia’s reaction to Mr Lee’s remarks were ‘very puzzling’.

It said that the facts were well known and had been reported widely in both the regional and international media.

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who had a leadership role in the JI terrorist network here, lived openly in Solo, Central Java, and another suspected terrorist leader, Hambali, was believed to be in Indonesia.

But Mr Wahid said that Jakarta had yet to find any evidence of terrorist activity on its soil. ‘We don’t have any hard proof,’ he said.

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