Indonesia playing punk with us again

MFA Spokesman’s Comments on remarks by Indonesian Minister of Defence Prof Juwono Sudarsono

In response to media queries on remarks by Indonesian Minister of Defence Prof Juwono Sudarsono, who was quoted as saying that Indonesia’s ratification of the Defence Cooperation Agreement was held up because Singapore had rejected Indonesia’s proposal for training arrangements to be determined jointly by the two sides, the MFA Spokesman said:

“We are puzzled by Prof Juwono’s statement that Singapore wants to decide by itself the military training arrangements in Indonesia.

Indonesia and Singapore had negotiated the Extradition Treaty (ET), and the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and four associated Implementing Arrangements (IAs) as one package. This package of agreements was agreed to and completed at a meeting of their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, and their armed forces chiefs on 23 April 2007. It was on this basis that the ET, DCA and Military Training Area IA were signed on 27 April 2007 in Bali in the presence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. At Indonesia’s request, however, the date for the signing of the three remaining IAs was deferred to 7 May 2007, purely for administrative and logistical reasons. The TNI explained that it could not get all three Indonesian Service Chiefs to be present on 27 April. Unfortunately, the signing on 7 May 2007 did not materialise, because just before it was due to take place Indonesia requested changes to the IAs which Singapore could not agree to.

The package of agreements was settled after comprehensive negotiations between the relevant agencies on both sides, including the defence ministries and armed forces of Indonesia and Singapore. Since the time negotiations commenced in October 2005, both sides had ample opportunity to raise any matter of concern for discussion, prior to the conclusion of the carefully balanced set of agreements on 23 April 2007. Indonesia did not raise these issues then. But after the conclusion of the package, Indonesia asked for substantive changes and new conditions to what had already been agreed upon in the DCA and IAs, as reflected in Prof Juwono’s remarks.

Singapore’s position is that the agreements are already settled, and the terms cannot be changed casually or piecemeal, without risking the whole package of ET and DCA unravelling. Nevertheless, in the interests of good relations between the two countries, Singapore had earlier conveyed to Indonesia our proposal on how we can move forward on this issue, and we are waiting for Indonesia’s response to our proposal.”

13 JUNE 2007

This is a worrying escalation of “megaphone diplomacy”, whereby Singapore and Indonesia are now negotiating through the mass media, instead of through more discreet diplomatic channels.

Let me hazard a guess as to what’s going on behind the scenes (the following may or may not be true, but it’s my assessment of what I think is most likely):

1. Singapore made an earlier than expected announcement that it was ready to sign the ET and DCA, and Indonesia got rushed into signing even though they didn’t want to sign the DCA, because there is much domestic expectation that the ET should be signed asap.

2. Now we learn that the Indons tried to play punk by claiming their military chiefs couldn’t make it to the 27 April signing. That is absolute rubbish! You mean the president, defence minister and foreign minister can make it, but the generals can’t? I mean, how big shot can a general possibly be? So why can’t the defence minister sign on their behalf. They must think the Singapore officials were stupid not to call their bluff in the first place. Singapore probably knew it, but just swallowed it.

3. Juwono alleged that Indonesia “proposed that training arrangements be determined jointly by the TNI (Indonesian military) and Singapore. Singapore rejected it, saying they should decide for themselves, despite the fact that the exercises will be conducted on our territory” — that is ludicrous! I know Singapore officials are often pushy and arrogant, but they would never insist on something outrageous like conducting military training in another country without the host country’s 100% concurrence.

4. After 27 April, Indonesia probably proposed some vague clause that could effectively invalidate the whole DCA because they can just use it to delay the DCA’s execution indefinitely. Naturally Singapore rejected the change. Also there’s a principle to stick to. If they agreed to it before, why should we allow them to suka suka make a change like that?

5. “Puzzled” in Singapore diplomatic speak means more like “the fella is trying to shift goal posts and go back on what we previously agreed on”.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “Indonesia playing punk with us again”

  1. well, the Indon military is a very powerful political organisation – different from us.

    i read somewhere, they’re unhappy with the defence treaty.

    its not Indo thats playing punk, but more a few generals who’s unhappy.


  2. You’re right that the TNI has a life of its own. But I believe they are supposed to be coming more and more under civilian leadership. The US won’t be having any defence cooperation with them if they weren’t making positive steps in that direction.

    Anyway, I recall reading one of their service chiefs (I think it was the air force chief) coming out quite strongly in defence of the DCA.

    Regarding the DCA, it’s more the parliamentarians (they need to vote to ratify the treaty) who are unhappy. Basically they just don’t like the idea of the SAF training on their land, when almost all of the SAF’s defence capabilities are meant to repel attacks from our neighbours, Indon being one of them. I guess that’s a reasonable concern.

    What is unreasonable is when they agree to something, then try and go back on their agreement. So now they want their ET but no DCA? I guess they thinks they can have their cake and eat it too. I think from the parliamentarians’ standpoint, they see no need to abide by the agreements negotiated by their government officials.

  3. the US only working with Indo because of JI and anti-terror lah..

    and they need to calm Indo down, if East Timor flares up again. and East Timor too close to Australia – an ally.

    but i think we dont know the full story…there must be some caveats or things in small print, or some clauses in the contract which has unnerved a few Indo politicians.


  4. The indon generals and politicians are probably ticked off because no one bothered to grease their greedy fingers.

  5. In the larger ASEAN defence context, closer training relations with us and the TNI will only help to strengthen ASEAN’s military security discourse.

    Apparently the generals can’t see that.

  6. aygee – I really wish we could actually see the DCA text so that we don’t have to guess.

    anon @ 10:23am – I think there are many powerful forces in Indonesia at play, corruption probably being one of them. In this case, I think it is mainly a case of politicians who are using the nationalist card to garner populist support.

    kevin – That sounds like an official remark! :) ASEAN defence context and ASEAN’s military security discourse? You mean like counter-terrorism and anti-piracy cooperation? I don’t think the generals (or anyone in Indon) actually cares too much about those threats. Counter-terrorism, yes, but they already have the US and Australia to help them, so they don’t need Singapore. Anti-piracy is more Singapore’s concern than theirs.

    I think Singapore’s main objective in the DCA is to foster better defence relations with an important , large neighbour. Why should Indonesians care about a little red dot? (as far as defence is concerned – economics is a separate thing).

Comments are closed.