Indonesia, Malaysia agree to strengthen Asean, urge Myanmar to implement peace plans

Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed that Asean needed to continue to play a central role in the Indo-Pacific. PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOR, Indonesia - Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to continue strengthening the role that Asean plays in global affairs.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Monday also urged the Myanmar military to implement peace plans drawn up by the regional grouping.

Following a meeting between the leaders at the state palace in Bogor outside Jakarta, Mr Widodo, better known as Jokowi, said: “We agreed that Asean must continue to play a central role in making the Indo-Pacific region peaceful, prosperous and stable.

“On Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia have the same view of the importance of implementing the Five-Point Consensus. We urge the Myanmar military junta to implement the Five-Point Consensus,” he added.

Mr Widodo was referring to the peace plan drawn up in April 2021 that was intended to bring an end to the chaos following the February 2021 military coup that has killed more than 2,000 people so far.

Both leaders also reaffirmed the close ties between the two countries, and Datuk Seri Anwar thanked Mr Widodo for the reception he and his delegation received in Indonesia.

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s two-day visit to Jakarta is his first since he was sworn into office on Nov 24. He is accompanied by several ministers.

Mr Anwar, who arrived on Sunday, was given a 19-gun salute at the official welcoming ceremony at the palace on Monday. Mr Widodo also hosted an official banquet for Mr Anwar that day.

State visits by new leaders in both countries are a diplomatic tradition, and Mr Anwar is the fourth Malaysian prime minister to visit Indonesia in less than five years.

Mr Widodo visited Kuala Lumpur in 2015. In turn, he received former Malaysian premiers Mahathir Mohamad in June 2018, Muhyiddin Yassin in February 2021 and Ismail Sabri Yaakob in November that year.

The two current leaders also agreed to further strengthen the protection of migrant workers.

“The solution must be more comprehensive so that workers will be protected,” said Mr Anwar, adding that both sides will ensure that employment agencies do not exploit such workers.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that in 2021, Indonesia was Malaysia’s seventh-largest trading partner globally and third-largest within Asean, with trade valued at RM95.31 billion (S$29 billion).

For the period between January and November 2022, Indonesia was Malaysia’s sixth-largest trading partner globally and the second-largest within Asean, with total trade increasing by 41.7 per cent, amounting to RM120.26 billion.

During the visit, eight memorandums of understanding between the private sectors of Malaysia and Indonesia were signed, with total projects estimated to be worth RM1.16 billion.

On Monday, a ceremony was also held to hand over 11 letters of interest by Malaysian companies to Mr Bambang Susantono, who heads the Nusantara Capital City Authority, a special agency tasked with managing and governing Nusantara city, the future capital of Indonesia.

Mr Widodo said he welcomed these letters of interest, and added that they were in fields including health, construction, electronics and property.

Indonesia has been courting the private sector, including foreign investors, to participate in the 466 trillion rupiah (S$40 billion) project, of which 20 per cent is expected to be covered by the state’s coffers.

Mr Reza Widyarsa, who teaches international relations at the University of Indonesia, said there is a higher chance Malaysian investors will be interested in investing in the new capital, thanks to both countries’ similar cultures.

“Malaysian investors would likely enter into agreement as they can understand Indonesia’s offer better,” said Mr Reza.

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