Singapore sends diplomatic note to Indonesia to protest detention of boat captain

Singaporean captain Shoo Chiau Huat (right), sitting next to a Chinese language translator at a court hearing in Tanjung Pinang, Riau province, on June 20, 2016.
Singaporean captain Shoo Chiau Huat (right), sitting next to a Chinese language translator at a court hearing in Tanjung Pinang, Riau province, on June 20, 2016.PHOTO: HERMAN BLACK

JAKARTA - Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent a diplomatic note to the Indonesian authorities over the detention of a Singaporean boat captain, held in custody despite being acquitted of fishing illegally in Indonesia's waters.

Riau Islands provincial law and human rights chief Ohan Suryana said the note was "a protest against the handling of legal proceedings against one of its citizens", he told reporters, referring to Captain Shoo Chiau Huat, 50.

Mr Shoo had seven Singaporeans and six Malaysians on board MV Selin when the boat was caught for trespassing by the Indonesian navy on April 16 in Tanjung Berakit waters, off Bintan island.

All the passengers were deported about a week after their arrests.

Mr Shoo was charged for illegal fishing in Indonesian waters but acquitted in July by a local court due to insufficient evidence.

But he remains in the custody of Indonesian immigration authorities after he was slapped with immigration offences instead.

The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had told The Straits Times in August it was monitoring his case "with concern" and had "sought clarification on the legal basis for Mr Shoo's detention".

Mr Ohan said Indonesia's foreign ministry had wanted Mr Shoo to be deported, but it was not viable "due to legal considerations".

"We will go ahead. This is evident as we had won during the pre-trial... I'm optimistic that he (Shoo) will be convicted," he added.

Yesterday, Mr Shoo attended the second hearing of the alleged immigration violations.

His lawyer, Mr Herman Black, said on Tuesday the hearing at Tanjung Pinang district court went ahead after a pre-trial motion he filed in September against Mr Shoo's detention for allegedly entering Indonesian waters without proper documentation was rejected by a panel of judges.

"(It's) still in the early stages. Today we have listened to the charges made by the prosecutors," he said. He added: "With this hearing, I see that my client is being coerced into being made a guilty party. I'm concerned."

Correction note: An earlier version of our article said Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore I Gede Ngurah Swajaya had personally handed a diplomatic note from Singapore to Riau Islands provincial law and human rights chief Ohan Suryana. Mr Ohan has since clarified that the ambassador did not hand the note to him, but had only showed it to him during a meeting prior to the hearing. This has been corrected.