Agenda for Leaders Retreat will take ties between Singapore and Indonesia forward: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (centre) has been in Indonesia for a three-day visit since Thursday.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (centre) has been in Indonesia for a three-day visit since Thursday.ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SEORIAATMADJA

JAKARTA - Singapore is committed to a long-term relationship with Indonesia, and much has been done by working groups on both sides to ensure that the agenda for the Leaders Retreat on Sept 7 will take bilateral ties forward, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

"Hence, what I came here for was basically to tee up for the very important Leaders Retreat, which we will be having on the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations," he told reporters on Saturday (Aug 12), as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Jakarta.

DPM Teo had arrived on Thursday in the Indonesian capital where he attended a National Day Reception hosted by the Singapore Embassy, followed by a meeting with President Joko Widodo, where he conveyed Singapore's greetings for Indonesia's 72nd Independence Day, which falls on Aug 17.

Both he and Mr Joko have also affirmed their commitment to the bilateral partnership, and to deepen cooperation in areas such as the digital economy and skills upgrading.

Other items on the agenda for the upcoming retreat are exploring more ways to work together on economic and regional development, and to continue collaborating in social and cultural exchanges, as well as security.

"We are very close neighbours and we have built up this relationship of trust over the past 50 years," said DPM Teo. "Therefore the theme for this year's retreat is 'Trusted Partners, Rising Together'."

He also said that it is good for Singapore to see a united, stable, and prosperous Indonesia, which augurs well for Asean as a region.

"Indonesia also sees many advantages in working with Singapore," he added. "We have been Indonesia's largest investor for several years now, a major trading partner, and we are also a very strong interlocutor on issues such as security, which affects both of us and the whole region."

Accompanying DPM Teo on the visit were Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Education Low Yen Ling, Chairman for Government Parliamentary Committee (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Vikram Nair and other officials.

Mr Tan had spent time in Jakarta as army attache, as well as commanded the Singapore Armed Forces' humanitarian assistance task force in Meulaboh, after the capital of West Aceh was hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

He said while ties are strong, Indonesia and Singapore relations still need to be tended to, and he hopes to see more people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

DPM Teo, who was speaking to some 500 guests at the Singapore Community Day in Jakarta on Saturday, also called on Singaporeans who live or work in Indonesia, to help nurturing relations.

"You yourselves play a major role here, you have business, you have lived here in Indonesia, and you also are ambassadors for Singapore, letting Indonesians know how Singaporeans are, what we stand for, what our country really is," he said.

The deputy prime minister also gave Singaporeans at the event an update on developments at home.

These include efforts to keep Singapore safe even as the region has been hit by terror attacks in recent years; moves to help Singaporeans prepare for the future economy; and the upcoming presidential election reserved for Malay candidates.

"We have not had a president from the Malay community for 47 years... and we have made constitutional changes this year to reinforce the importance of multi-racialism in Singapore," said DPM Teo.

"My hope for the presidential election is the hope of all Singaporeans - that we have a president who is able, person of integrity, upright, who will uphold the principles of multi-racialism, multi-religionism in Singapore, and a president whom all communities can be proud of."