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.”
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
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”.