Sat, 12 Mar 2005


Singapore looks to Geneva to settle dispute with Indonesia

Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to seek a solution to a dispute over a consignment of material the city-state considers organic fertilizer but Jakarta describes as hazardous waste exported to the island of Batam, the Singapore government said on Thursday.

The agreement to find an acceptable solution under the Basel Convention was reached after talks on Wednesday in Jakarta between Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo and his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirayuda.

The talks paved the way for the two countries to meet in Geneva on March 23 and 24 for talks hosted by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention, according to a statement on Thursday from Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Such a meeting "would resolve this matter in accordance with international agreements and in a manner that serves the best interests of both Singapore and Indonesia", it said.

The ministry said Indonesia had notified the Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC) of its list of hazardous waste covered under the country's law on July 29, two days after the material in question had been exported to Batam to improve the condition of a site being developed into a high-technology farming facility.

Singapore received a notification from the secretariat on Aug. 27, the statement said, adding Indonesia's notice to the secretariat did not state the toxicity concentration limits under its domestic laws.

The secretariat on March 1 offered to assist the two countries. Singapore's National Environment Agency accepted the offer, but there was no response from Indonesia's State Ministry of the Environment (KLH).

"Singapore was thus taken aback to learn that KLH was unilaterally shipping the material back to Singapore and disregarding the offer ... of the SBC which it had itself requested," the statement said.

"We thus hope that Indonesia will agree to the March 23 to 24 meeting in Geneva proposed by the SBC," it added.

Batam is a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore. --DPA