No quick solution to Myanmar, says Vivian Balakrishnan after meeting Indonesia's Jokowi

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (second from left) meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (second from right) and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (right) on March 26, 2021. PHOTO: BIRO PERS SEKRETARIAT PRESIDEN
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (right) meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a visit to Jakarta, on March 26, 2021. PHOTO: BIRO PERS SEKRETARIAT PRESIDEN

JAKARTA - Do not expect a quick solution to the Myanmar crisis, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Friday (March 26) after a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, during which they discussed the military coup in the Asean member state as well as opportunities in the green economy.

Dr Balakrishnan said it was "essential" for the credibility, centrality and relevance of Asean to have a position and to be able to offer some constructive assistance to Myanmar.

"It's not a happy topic. It's a tragedy that is unfolding... It's going to take quite some time to resolve," he told the Singapore media as he wrapped up a two-day visit to the Indonesian capital, his final stop after a whirlwind work trip to Brunei and Malaysia which started on Monday.

Dr Balakrishnan said he and Mr Widodo, better known as Jokowi, spoke about the Myanmar situation at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

On March 19, the President had called for violence to be halted and peace and stability to be restored in Myanmar following the Feb 1 military coup and the ensuing security crackdown on protesters in the country. He had also urged Asean leaders to meet to discuss the crisis.

On Friday, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that Indonesia and Singapore did not believe in foreign interference in domestic politics but he hoped that Myanmar would take into consideration the views of the regional leaders.

He said a summit particularly would allow the leaders to "have a chance to quietly, confidentially and openly amongst themselves arrive at a set of conclusions".

Dr Balakrishnan and his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, had expressed their support for such a summit in a joint press conference on Thursday.

Besides Myanmar, Dr Balakrishnan also spoke with Mr Widodo about the green economy, which Dr Balakrishnan believes will take off in a big way, not only in Indonesia, but also South-east Asia, in the coming decades.

"The President was particularly seized on this question of the green economy, and the opportunities that green economy presents for Indonesia in terms of Indonesia's access to hydropower, wind, geothermal, solar panels and how the economics of renewable energy has been transformed just in the last five to 10 years," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan also met senior ministers in Indonesia, including Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investments Luhut Pandjaitan, with whom he discussed investment opportunities in the renewable energy sector in Indonesia as well as trade and investment cooperation in the maritime sector.

Other officials included Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

"It's been really hectic, but as I said, a very productive and fulfilling visit," he said.

On tourism and travel arrangements between the two countries, Dr Balakrishnan said the approach to this was "gradual, safe, and cautious" in the light of the Covid-19 situation.

For cross-border travel to occur, the two countries must be able to share verifiable records such as on Covid-19 testing and vaccination.

"We need... the Covid situation to improve significantly, ideally for them (Indonesia) to achieve the same level of control as we have currently in Singapore, which means every day we have zero, one, or two cases locally," he said.

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"So this will take some time and that's why I completely reiterate Ibu Retno's point. Let's do it gradually, carefully, cautiously. That's the way to do it," he said.

Singapore has been Indonesia's top foreign investor since 2014. Last year's investment was up 50.8 per cent from 2019 and it was the highest in at least six years, from 2015.

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