S’pore committed to Indonesia for long term
The Republic will do whatever it can to help Aceh, says DPM Tony Tan.
SINGAPORE’S commitment to Indonesia is for the long term, and this includes helping Aceh province recover from the devastation of the recent tsunami.
Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan said yesterday that Singapore had identified a number of areas in Aceh where it could provide assistance, but the Republic could only ‘help within our capabilities’.
‘Singapore is a country of four million people,’ he told Singapore reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Indonesia.
‘We have to recognise our limitations. We want to help. We should do it in areas where we have expertise and we can deliver quickly. For the longer term and for bigger projects, a lot of countries have promised very generous aid. But there is only so much we can do. We have to be realistic.’
Dr Tan, who was in Banda Aceh on Monday, said that Singapore would be constructing a 150-bed hospital in the provincial capital.
In the hardest-hit town of Meulaboh, the Republic would be building a school and a barge pier to help the transportation of goods.
‘This is the start of what we can do,’ he said. But it is good to start with some specific projects while discussing other longer-term programmes, he added.
Dr Tan said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would brief Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Aceh’s reconstruction plans when he makes an official visit to Singapore on Feb 15.
Giving an overview of bilateral ties after being in Indonesia for the past few days – his first visit to the country after 18 months – he said that he ‘found a warm sense of friendship towards Singapore’.
In his meetings with the President and other Indonesian leaders, all of them expressed their appreciation for the assistance given by Singapore, particularly the SAF, in the first few weeks after the disaster.
The SAF was one of the first foreign armed forces to enter Meulaboh after disaster struck on Dec 26, helping in relief operations and aid distribution.
DPM Tan said: ‘The SAF made a big difference. One of the Indonesian leaders said to me that the SAF had saved Meulaboh.’
He said Dr Yudhoyono’s visit to Singapore would be a good opportunity for both countries to improve ties which he described as already being ‘wide-ranging and strong’.
The economic links were clearly growing. Several Singapore companies with expertise in road and port construction and telecommunications had taken part in the Infrastructure Summit held in Jakarta last month.
But as neighbours, he said, issues were bound to crop up occasionally.
One of them was Indonesia’s call for an extradition treaty in which both countries have begun discussions.
This, however, did not detract from the fundamentals of the relationship which appeared to have grown stronger after the tsunami.
Dr Tan noted that the disaster was a major factor in the warming bilateral ties.
But he was also quick to point out: ‘I don’t think we can base our relationship on one factor only. This is an on-going relationship which we have to work on for the benefit of both countries.’
He left the last word for Singaporeans involved in relief operations in Aceh, many of whom he met when he visited the region.
‘They are doing great work in Aceh. Some of them have taken leave and spending their own money to help the victims. All these in very bad conditions. When I see what they are doing, I feel proud to be a Singaporean.’
HELP WITHIN LIMITATIONS
‘We have to recognise our limitations. We want to help. We should do it in areas where we have expertise and we can deliver quickly.’
– DR TAN, saying the Republic could help only within its capabilities
THE SAF SAVIOURS
‘The SAF made a big difference. One of the Indonesian leaders said to me that the SAF had saved Meulaboh.’
– DR TAN, on the relief effort by the SAF in Meulaboh, Aceh
CASINO POSER: PLUS OR MINUS?
‘Is it an economic plus or an economic minus? Do not assume that a casino is an economic plus. If it is, every state in the US would have a casino.’
– DR TAN, on a casino in Singapore