Saturday, 9 September 2017

RISING50: Indonesia, Singapore mark 50 years of bilateral ties

Two countries are neighbours by geography but partners by choice, says PM Lee
By Francis Chan, Indonesia Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 8 Sep 2017

Singapore and Indonesia marked 50 years of diplomatic ties at a Leaders' Retreat yesterday by declaring they would remain "trusted partners, RISING together".

While RISING - RI for Republic of Indonesia and SING for Singapore - was coined by diplomats to mark the jubilee, the leaders of the two nations also declared a desire to be friends for the long haul.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his toast at an Istana lunch in honour of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, said that while the two countries are neighbours by geography, they are partners by choice, and both are committed to broadening and deepening cooperation.

He noted earlier that generations of leaders from both sides had taken a long-term and win-win approach to cooperate for mutual benefit and solve problems amicably and rationally. "As a result, today we have a strong partnership based on mutual trust and respect," he said.

His words were echoed by President Joko, in Singapore for his second retreat with PM Lee in as many years, as the two leaders look to take ties forward. "We are neighbours by God's will, by geography, but we are and always will be good neighbours and close friends by choice," said Mr Joko. "To this end, it is essential to always ensure that our next 50 years of cooperation is one that is based on mutual trust and mutual confidence, and brings equal and mutual benefit to our peoples."

The leaders held a "four-eye" meeting before a high-powered Indonesian delegation sat down with their Singapore counterparts for bilateral talks yesterday morning.

Mr Lee said he and Mr Joko had a "good meeting", and believes their countries can do more together.

"Our bilateral relationship can only continue to deepen and benefit our two peoples if it is supported by close rapport between the leaders," he said. "I am therefore glad that President Jokowi and I have a constructive working relationship."

The leaders also noted the strong existing cooperation in trade, investment and tourism, and affirmed both sides' readiness to start talks on a new Bilateral Investment Treaty.

Mr Lee said at a joint press conference earlier that he appreciated Mr Joko's personal efforts in tackling forest and land fires, and expressed Singapore's commitment to work with Indonesia to address the transboundary haze issue as well as on counter-terrorism.

On regional cooperation, Mr Joko reiterated the importance of the two countries in ASEAN. They were two of the five founding members when ASEAN was formed in 1967.

"Next year, Singapore will become the chair of ASEAN. I have expressed Indonesia's support for Singapore's chairmanship," said Mr Joko. "ASEAN unity and centrality must always be our chief concern so that ASEAN remains relevant for its members and its people."

Mr Joko said that while the future holds many new challenges, he was "glad that the discussion... with PM Lee was focused on our cooperation ahead, including the development of the digital economy".

Nine memoranda of understanding were signed, including one between the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Indonesia's National Disaster Management Authority.

Singapore and Indonesia have reaped the benefits of close cooperation in the past 50 years, noted Mr Jonathan Chen, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"Although the political landscape of both countries has changed since, both continue to pursue a strong bilateral relationship based on shared interests, be it in the context of regional organisations like ASEAN or cooperation in trade, business and growth," said Mr Chen.

Both also stand to gain more by their complementarities than their differences. "If this can be achieved, it is likely that the next 50 years of bilateral ties will be just as celebrated."

Bilateral ties go sky-high
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 8 Sep 2017

Twenty fighter jets cut through the Marina South skyline in the shape of the numeral "50" yesterday, capping off one of the highlights of the golden jubilee celebrations between Singapore and Indonesia.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo were at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre to witness the fly-past, which was conducted by the air forces from both sides to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two neighbours.

The combined fly-past was the largest and most complex one that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has conducted with any foreign air force to date.

Building on the strong defence ties, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also announced a new exercise yesterday between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Indonesia's armed forces (TNI).

Called the SAF-TNI Counter-Terrorism Table Top Exercise, it will take place from Nov 27 to 30.

In a Facebook post, Dr Ng also said the combined celebrations "reflect the strong defence ties forged through years of engagement and cooperation against common challenges".

After the fly-past, four of the participating RSAF F-16s landed in Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Pekanbaru, Indonesia.

RSAF Chief of Air Force Mervyn Tan, who was on board one of the RSAF aircraft in the fly-past, said in Pekanbaru: "I think the fly-past really is a testament to the skill as well as the professionalism of the pilots of both our air forces.

"But more important than that, I think it underscored the trust and mutual understanding between the personnel of both our air forces."

His counterpart, Chief of Staff of the TNI-AUHadi Tjahjanto, who was on board one of the Indonesian F-16s, said: "I believe the military cooperation between TNI-AU and the RSAF will be everlasting, and we will always support each other."

The RSAF and TNI-AU started having exercises together in 1980. Since then, they have engaged in a wide range of exercises and activities such as visits, professional exchanges and cross-attendance of courses.

Room for more collaboration with Indonesia: PM Lee
Economic links can be boosted in sectors like tourism, infrastructure and digital economy
By Grace Leong, The Straits Times, 8 Sep 2017

Singapore has long been Indonesia's top investor, and that fruitful collaboration can be strengthened in sectors such as tourism, infrastructure and developing a digital economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Mr Lee noted that the need for deeper economic links between both countries has grown more significant as technological disruption opens up new opportunities, even as it generates uncertainty and fierce competition for companies.

He told the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum that companies here have expertise that complements Indonesia's development priorities in infrastructure development in the transport and energy sectors, for instance.

The event at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, which is part of efforts to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Jakarta and Singapore, attracted more than 600 business leaders and government representatives of both countries.

With more than 2,000 Indonesian businesses already operating here, Mr Lee said he was pleased that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is actively promoting investments from Singapore.

"We both have promising start-up companies, investors, entrepreneurs and companies in this sector see many opportunities to collaborate," he added.

"For example, we have jointly established start-up networking platforms like EV Hive and Block 71 in Jakarta to cross-fertilise ideas."

Mr Joko told the forum: "We are witnessing a historic boom in e-commerce companies in Indonesia. Today, we have several unicorns, or digital start-up companies, with a valuation of US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion). And given the size of our domestic market, we will have many more in the years to come.

"Twenty years ago, Batam was for Singapore what Shenzhen was for Hong Kong."

But today, Batam could serve as a "digital bridge" between Singapore and many of Indonesia's fast-growing digital communities in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Bali and other cities.

Deeper bilateral and economic cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia in growing sectors such as tourism and infrastructure was also highlighted at the forum.

PM Lee said that both leaders will open discussions on a new bilateral investment treaty, which "will strengthen investors' confidence that Indonesia is open and ready for business and foreign investment".

Attracting more infrastructure investment in cruise tourism is one key area.

Mr Lee noted: "Larger ships are coming into service. These ships will need new infrastructure, especially larger ports, berths and marinas. With this infrastructure in Singapore and the right infrastructure in place across the region, new cruise routes and itineraries can be opened up."

Mr Joko noted that both countries see "great opportunity in marine tourism".

"The continuing rise of hundreds of millions of people in China, India and the Asia-Pacific into the global middle class is leading to a tourism boom of historic proportions," he added.

He said his government has implemented a programme called 10 New Balis to transform 10 cities into priority tourism destinations modelled after Bali's success.

"There is tremendous opportunity for Singapore in the next 12 months as airports (such as) the Silangit airport in Lake Toba... will be converted to international airports," added Mr Joko.

"We look forward to many new airline routes being launched between Singapore and these new tourism destinations."

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman S.S. Teo said more Singapore businesses are looking to explore opportunities beyond Jakarta and Java, given that other cities in central and eastern Indonesia are still growing rapidly and are less saturated.

Yesterday's forum was organised by the SBF, the Economic Development Board, International Enterprise Singapore, the Indonesian Embassy, Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

RISING together
The Straits Times, 8 Sep 2017

RISING50 is an amalgamation of "RI" for the Republic of Indonesia and "SING" for Singapore, while 50 refers to the half century of warm and friendly bilateral ties they have enjoyed since 1967. To mark the milestone, a series of activities was organised in Singapore yesterday around the theme of "Trusted Partners, RISING Together".


A "RISING Tree" was planted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo in the Learning Forest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The sunda oak tree is native to both Singapore and Indonesia.


A joint stamp issue by SingPost and Pos Indonesia features coral reefs of both countries; and a commemorative RISING50 book was launched by the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore.


Fighter jets from the air forces of Singapore and Indonesia flew together in a joint fly-past that featured "arrowhead" and "50" formations, in a historic first.


PM Lee and President Joko held a "four-eye" meeting to take stock of bilateral relations as well as discuss how the two countries can deepen cooperation.


The two leaders witnessed three MOUs signed by Singapore's Education Ministry - on education cooperation with Indonesia's Ministry of Education and Culture; on higher education cooperation with the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education; and on vocational education and training with the Ministry of Industry.

They also witnessed the signing of an MOU on disaster risk management between the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Indonesia's National Disaster Management Authority.

Of the other five MOUs, one was a liquefied natural gas deal between Pavilion Energy, Keppel Offshore and Marine, and Indonesia's state energy firm Perusahaan Listrik Negara.


Singapore will set up a polytechnic in the Kendal Industrial Park joint venture in Semarang to train workers, while PM Lee and President Joko also affirmed both sides' readiness to start negotiations on a new Bilateral Investment Treaty to further strengthen economic cooperation.

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