PM, Mega united in fighting terror
Their meeting in Bogor is characterised by warmth as they pledge to boost investor confidence and beat terrorism.
In a show of solidarity, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri pledged yesterday that their two countries would work together to fight terrorism and revive the region’s flagging economy.
Mr Goh, the first foreign leader to visit Indonesia after the Bali bombings, said his trip was aimed at backing Jakarta at a time when many foreign investors were worried about the country’s political and security situation.
Singapore was prepared to offer a helping hand, he said. For example, Singapore Airlines had sold holiday packages to Bali soon after the bombings to signal that it was a safe place, he noted.
For her part, Mrs Megawati made clear that both countries needed to work together to rid the region of the terrorist scourge.
She added that apart from terrorism, they also discussed the economic crisis since ‘Indonesia’s struggle on economic problems also has an effect on Singapore’.
The two leaders spoke to reporters after a four-eye meeting, which was followed by a session with their ministers and officials, which lasted nearly 90 minutes.
They met at the Istana Bogor, a colonial-era presidential summer palace 60 km south of Jakarta, which was much favoured by Mrs Megawati’s late father Sukarno.
Later, standing before an imposing portrait of President Sukarno, the two leaders addressed reporters and spelt out their shared concerns.
Top of the list was terrorism. This was a ‘very grave threat’, said Mr Goh, noting that many members of the Jemaah Islamiah regional terror network were still at large.
‘The terrorist network is rather extensive and there are many cells,’ he said. ‘We have caught some of them in Singapore and Indonesia but there are still many left outside.’
Both leaders, he said, discussed ‘cooperative measures to root out the terrorist infrastructure in this part of the world’, as well as to give regional economies a boost.
They also unveiled a new civil service exchange programme to allow officials to ‘exchange ideas where we can do things much better’.
The warm personal ties between the two leaders were evident when they followed up their talks with a stroll through the nearby Bogor Botanical Gardens.
The 80 ha park, said to be close to the heart of the President whose one-time ambition was to be its curator, is home to more than 15,000 species of trees and plants.
Mr Goh took the occasion to present the Indonesian leader with the Kagawara Megawati Soekarnoputri, a red and yellow bloom named after her. Ms Megawati gave Mr Goh a red and white Phalaenopsis orchid in return.
During his two-day visit, he will also foster ties with other Indonesian leaders. He will meet Vice-President Hamzah Haz, Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung, People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien Rais and several Indonesian intellectuals, Islamic leaders and newspaper editors.
The focus of his discussions will be the wider strategic backdrop facing the two countries, rather than the nitty-gritty of bilateral issues which, Mr Goh said, would be left to officials to discuss.
His objective in Indonesia was clear – ‘to show that Indonesia is a place where we can do business … My coming here is for that purpose: To show support for President Megawati and for her government’.
ON HIS two-day visit, PM Goh will also foster ties with other Indonesian leaders. He will meet Vice-President Hamzah Haz, Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung, People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien Rais and several Indonesian intellectuals, Islamic leaders and newspaper editors.