Jakarta wants to mend ties with S’pore

It wants to put problems arising from comments made by SM Lee behind it by resolving issues quietly and discreetly.

Indonesia has agreed to settle differences with Singapore quietly, following a recent furore over comments by

Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew about terrorist leaders remaining in the country.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayudah said yesterday that both sides would resolve problems through ‘existing mechanisms’ used by countries in the region for handling disputes.

‘The two governments have reached an agreement not to settle their disputes openly, but to settle whatever arose from the statement by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew through official channels,’ he told reporters.

His comments came weeks after an outcry here over Mr Lee’s remarks last month that the masterminds of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group, some of whose members are being detained in Singapore, were still at large in Indonesia.

Several government officials, legislators and Muslim hardliners said the accusation was unsubstantiated and an interference in Indonesia’s domestic affairs.

But the mood appeared to change after President Megawati Sukarnoputri called for calm last week and urged Indonesians not to be too emotional in their response.

Indonesian diplomats said that given the importance both countries attached to their relationship, steps were being taken to address any problems.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa told The Straits Times:

‘Our ties with Singapore are very important.

‘We are obviously going through a phase now, but if we approach things in a pragmatic manner, we will get over it.

‘There is an understanding now that we should just let the experts look into the matter and not be distracted by public discourse.’

Singapore security agencies have offered to facilitate direct investigations by their Indonesian counterparts to confirm that links existed between two Indonesian suspects – Muslim clerics Abu Bakar Bashir and Hambali – and JI members in the Republic.

This includes giving them access to the 13 JI members now being detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorist-related activities.

Indonesian police spokesman Edward Aritonang said Jakarta had already sent two teams to Singapore in the last three weeks.

Another team, headed by chief detective Engkesman Hillip, will be sent soon to interview the JI members.

But consultations with security agencies in the Republic thus far had yet to provide any leads for the Indonesian police, he added.

‘As of now, we have still not been given sufficient evidence to prove that Indonesians are involved in any acts of international terrorism,’ he said.

The police view on this issue differs significantly from that of the military and intelligence agencies, which have conceded that terrorist elements with international links were in Indonesia.

Political observers said that while Jakarta understood the gravity of the problem, it could not act fast enough, given the fear of a domestic backlash from Muslim hardliners.

Posted in Indonesia