Our Neighbours’ Nationalism and Singapore

I think this would be typical. Every government wants a good deal and more significant, want to show to their domestic audience that they got a good deal, regardless if the deal is good or not.

For better or for worse, Singapore always seems to get the good deal in bilateral negotiations with our neighbours, if the critics of the governments in Indonesia etc are to be believed. From a Singaporean perspective, that sound encouraging. The flip side is that the populist political commentators in our neighbouring countries would use Singapore as an excuse to box in their own governments. Then these governments would get upset and defensive and be on the war path with Singapore regarding Singtel’s purchase of shares in their telcos.

On the other hand , are we also guilty of nationalistic pride too and depicting our neighbours as unreasonable bogeymen in bilateral disputes?

Government ‘fails to develop healthy communication’

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 14 .9.07

Poor communication by the government with its people and its neighbors has seen the birth of an unfavorable national security agreement and massive protests against a fuel conversion program, a university-based communication expert said Wednesday.

Effendy Ghazali from the University of Indonesia said the government had to communication with and involve its people more before making crucial decisions involving social welfare or security.

Effendy said the conversion from kerosene to gas stoves was a perfect example of the government’s failure to understand its people’s needs.

And the government’s inability to stand tall against Singapore during the latest defense agreement talks has put the archipelago in danger, he said.

The kerosene conversion project should have seen the government offer gas stoves as an alternative to kerosene stoves, rather than ordering state-owned oil company Pertamina to pull kerosene from the market, Effendy said Wednesday.

“They should let the people themselves decide whether they want to use gas.

“The government also has to stimulate the growth of gas usage by giving incentives or discounts to the people when they purchase their second cylinder.

“The people would then automatically want to use the gas stoves … but don’t force them,” he said.

Two months ago, thousands of people from Jakarta, Bekasi, Tangerang and Depok, grouped under the Kerosene Users Forum, held a mass rally in front of a Pertamina depot in Plumpang, North Jakarta.

They demanded the government cancel the conversion program, saying it would only increase financial burdens on low-income families.

The State Ministry for Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises launched the kerosene conversion program last year to reduce the government’s subsidy burden, which hit around Rp 40 trillion last year.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono responded to complaints by ordering the ministry and Pertamina to evaluate the program and to introduce kerosene back into the local market.

Permadi, a member of the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing national defense, said the government had also failed to establish communication with neighboring countries, particularly Singapore.

He said the government was under huge financial constraints, which saw the country disabled when debating international issues.

Permadi said the defense agreement between Indonesia and Singapore was an important example of how the neighboring country viewed Indonesia’s government.

Indonesia signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Singapore this year, in return for an agreement on corruption suspects.

The defense agreement has authorized Singapore to use specified Indonesian territory for its military training programs.

“Our government’s (lack of strength and dignity) has endangered the whole nation,” Permadi said.

But the Coordinating Minister on Politics, Law and Security Widodo AS said the government had successfully promoted the public’s right to communicate their wishes through the 2004 general election.

“We now have our freedom of expression guaranteed by the law,” Widodo said.

“We also have the press to criticize the government.

“This didn’t happen before,” he said.

Indonesia’s Freedom of Expression Law No.9/1998 guarantees every citizen the right to express their opinion in public, as long as they obey the law and adhere to regulations on public order.


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