JAKARTA - Indonesia acknowledges the sovereignty of every country to implement its immigration rules and exercise its rights to accept or deny entry to foreigners, said a spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday (May 19).
This was in response to Singapore's recent move to refuse entry to an Indonesian preacher with a history of extremist teachings.
"Based on its prevailing jurisdictions and rules of law, a country can deny entry of someone into its national territory according to various considerations, and the reasons for the measure is not always known," said spokesman Teuku Faizasyah in a virtual press briefing.
"As a sovereign nation, Indonesia also has its immigration policies with which we can deny whoever wants to enter Indonesia," added Dr Teuku.
Singapore denied entry to Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara and six of his travel companions soon after they arrived from Batam at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on May 16.
On his Instagram account, the preacher posted a photo and a short clip of himself while waiting to be interrogated by the Singapore immigration authorities.
A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said on Tuesday that "Somad has been known to preach extremist and segregationist teachings, which are unacceptable in Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society".
She also noted that he had previously preached that suicide bombings are legitimate in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and are considered "martyrdom" operations. He also made comments denigrating worshippers of other faiths, and publicly called non-Muslims "kafirs" or infidels.
The spokesman added that a visitor's entry into Singapore is neither automatic nor a right.
"While Somad had attempted to enter Singapore ostensibly for a social visit, the Singapore Government takes a serious view of any persons who advocate violence and/or espouse extremist and segregationist teachings," she said.
Despite being one of the most popular preachers on the Internet in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Somad has drawn public criticism, including from Islamic scholars, for his statements denigrating other faiths.
In the past, he had been denied entry by Hong Kong as well as countries including Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Dr Teuku said a country has no obligation to explain why it prohibits foreigners from entering its territory. Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Singapore had enquired with Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority about the refusal of entry, and was told the reason was due to "being ineligible for the issue of a pass under current immigration policies".
Speaking at the same briefing on Thursday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's citizen protection director Judha Nugraha said Indonesia has also exercised its right to deny the entry of other citizens. Citing immigration data, he said that from January to mid-May, the country had denied entry to 452 foreigners, including Singaporeans, due to various immigration issues.
He added that the list of foreigners is "confidential data" and the country has the right not to reveal the reasons.
"The agreement on the free visa between Indonesia and other countries, including with Asean, does not deprive them of their sovereignty to refuse any foreigner who is not allowed to enter," Mr Judha said.