In a strong attack on Singapore, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid lashed out at the island republic and its senior minister, Lee Kuan Yew, for ignoring its southern neighbors, reports here said Sunday.
Speaking to Indonesian journalists at the Indonesian embassy in Singapore on Saturday, Wahid accused the small republic of trying to go its own way and only thinking of profit, the Kompas daily said.
Wahid also launched a tirade against Lee for barring the way for Indonesia’s eastern neighbors Papua New Guinea and East Timor to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Jakarta Post said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lee, Wahid said, had shown contempt for Malays and also insulted him by saying that he, Indonesia’s first democratically-elected president, would have to step down in the near future, Kompas said.
Wahid, who was in Singapore to attend the ASEAN summit, said that the two-day informal summit of leaders did not place sufficient emphasis on the least-developed countries in the region.
Singapore, he said, seemed “to be only keen on developing relations with China and other East Asian countries.
“If (Singapore Prime Minister) Go Chok Tong really wants to go his own way…go ahead, it would not be a problem for us because we can also go our own way,” Wahid said, according to the Jakarta Post.
He berated Lee for rejecting the setting up of a forum with ASEAN’s eastern neighbors in the West Pacific.
“He rejected it…so that’s it, we will form a new pact, maybe we will name it the West Pacific Forum,” Kompas quoted Wahid as saying, adding that such pact could include Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Australia and New Zealand.
Lee’s refusal to include Papua New Guinea and East Timor in ASEAN, Wahid said, was because “the cost of letting those countries in would be too much to bear.
“It became clear from my meeting with Lee Kuan Yew that Singapore is only looking for profit,” he added.
Singapore, he said, may be unhappy with the forum but Jakarta could not care less.
“When they (Singapore) established a defence agreement with New Zealand and Australia and when they decided to open up their port to refuel U.S. navy ships they did not tell Indonesia or Malaysia anything,” Wahid said.
Wahid also said that Singaporeans “ basically like to underestimate Malay people…we are considered non-existent.”
“Before, only (Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir (Mohamad) was brave enough to confront Singapore, but now …Mahathir has a new friend,” Wahid said.
Kompas said that to put pressure on the small republic, both Malaysia and Indonesia could stop the flow of drinking water to Singapore.
During a meeting between Wahid and Mahathir in Singapore on Saturday, the matter of controlling the water supply came up, Wahid said.
“So we should not be afraid or in other words our interests should come first, before the interests of other people,” Wahid said.
It is the second time that Indonesia has taken a strong line on Singapore. Wahid’s predecessor, BJ Habibie first broke the three decades of close relations between leaders of both countries that had been established by former president Suharto.
Habibie had called Singapore “the red dot” on the map and his generals spoke of violation of Indonesia’s territorial waters by Singaporean submarines.