Asean must remain 'engine for peace & stability' in the region: Indonesia President Jokowi

PM Lee reiterated Singapore's support for Indonesia's chairmanship of Asean.

Tan Min-Wei | March 16, 2023, 08:54 PM

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Asean must continue to act as the "engine for peace" in Southeast Asia, said Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi, at a press conference on March 16.

Jokowi was speaking at the Istana, having attended the Sixth Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat, hosted this year in Singapore.

The retreat, last held in 2022 in Batam, was the latest in the annual series of meetings where the two countries' leaders and ministers meet to discuss bilateral and regional issues.

An engine for peace

PM Lee and Jokowi spoke at a joint press conference after the meeting.

PM Lee reaffirmed Singapore's full support for Indonesia's chairmanship of Asean, and Indonesia's priorities as Asean chair, as well as complimenting Indonesia's chairmanship of the G20 meeting in 2022.

Myanmar a priority

PM Lee said that both he and Jokowi "regretted the lack of progress in Asean's five point consensus (5PC)".

But Singapore would continue to work with Indonesia, as well as Asean's members and partners, to "push for full implementation of the 5PC".

The 5PC is a series of steps to end the political crisis that has been ongoing in Myanmar since the military staged a coup in 2021, displacing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The consensus was agreed with between major stakeholders, notably Asean and the Myanmar military government, but the latter has thus far refused to fulfil its commitments.

In an interview with the Straits Times prior to his arrival in Singapore, Jokowi said that the 5PC was a priority for Indonesia and Asean.

He also said that there had been much work taking place behind the scenes, but that while Indonesia would do its best to improve the situation, things in Myanmar were complicated, and a resolution would take some time.

Timor Leste and Asean as an epicentre of growth

PM Lee also reiterated Singapore's support for Timor Leste's membership of Asean, and that Singapore would do "our part to help Timor Leste prepare for the obligations and commitments which it will take on when it joins Asean".

Jokowi said that as Asean chair, it was his priority to ensure the bloc remains important and relevant for its people and the world.

He elaborated that his priorities were "to ensure the solidity and centrality of Asean", and for Asean to "remain as the engine for peace" in the region, as well as Southeast Asia to remain an epicentre of growth.

Mighty MoUs

Jokowi also emphasised the Memorandums of Understanding signed between both governments, as well as businesses.

He highlighted the 20 letters of intent from Singapore's private sector to invest in the Nusantara national capital city, and the nine business to business and seven government to government MoUs signed in the fields of healthcare, digital, and renewable energy.

PM Lee and Jokowi also welcomed the ratification of the three agreements made under the expanded framework that were agreed at the 2022 Leader's Retreat.

Three bilateral agreements

They jointly announced that both countries would make a joint application to the International Civil Aviation Organisation for approval of the new Flight Information Region (FIR) agreement.

The other two agreements included the Treaty for the Extradition of Fugitives, and the Defence Cooperation Agreement.

Once approval is attained for the FIR, both countries would move forward to bring all three agreements into force at the same time.

The leaders also witnessed the exchange of six MoUs, including one establishing the Singapore-Indonesia Tech: X Programme, which enables young tech professionals from both countries to work  in each other's countries for up to a year.

PM Lee said:

"So our bilateral relations are in excellent order, we've taken a major step forward to resolve three long-standing issues, we are ready to break new ground in fresh areas of cooperation that are deep, multi-faceted, forward-looking and mutually beneficial, and will make a difference for future generations.

I thank President Jokowi for his steady leadership of Indonesia and his important contributions to the strong relations between our two countries."

You can watch the press conference below:


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Top image via @MFAsg/Twitter