Singapore holding up defence pact, Indonesia says

13 Jun 07

Singapore has rejected a proposal that Indonesia’s military have a say over the frequency and scope of naval exercises held on Indonesian territory as part of a defence pact, a top official said on Monday.

The disagreement is delaying ratification of the deal by both countries’ parliaments, Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said.

“We 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,” Sudarsono told reporters.

“So it’s still being held up by Singapore’s objections. If there’s no agreement, there will be no pact,” he said.

The defence agreement signed in April allows the city-state’s air force and navy to train in Indonesia.

The neighbours signed the agreement together with an extradition treaty Jakarta had sought from Singapore for several years. Both need to be ratified by their respective parliaments.

Indonesia wants to use the extradition deal to track down fugitive business executives it says owe money to the state and who might be living in Singapore.

The defence pact has proved controversial in Indonesia, with some lawmakers threatening to refuse to ratify it if provisions are deemed against Indonesia’s interests.

Singapore said last month the extradition treaty would only come into effect once problems over the defence pact were ironed out.

Sudarsono said earlier in June that Jakarta wanted to spell out how often Singapore’s armed forces conducted firing exercises in Indonesia. Singapore has said such an arrangement would be inflexible and require “substantive changes” to the agreement.

Indonesia is also worried that frequent firing exercises in Indonesia by Singaporean forces could damage the environment.

A large number of wealthy Indonesians live in neigbouring Singapore and are key clients for luxury property developers and private banks.

One third of Singapore’s high-net-worth individuals – those with more than $1 million in wealth – are of Indonesian origin, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini said in a report last year. These 18,000 Indonesians have total assets worth $87 billion