Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Singapore responds to Abdurrahman's attack

JAKARTA (JP): The Singapore government responded sharply on Tuesday to comments made by President Abdurrahman Wahid on the heels of the ASEAN informal summit on the island-nation, refuting many of the allegations made by the Indonesian president.

The statement, received here on Tuesday evening, was issued by the press secretary to Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

The statement was issued after Abdurrahman launched on Saturday a stinging critic on the island-state, accusing it of manipulating Jakarta and claiming the two-day ASEAN summit did not place sufficient emphasis on less developed members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

On the alleged rejection of Abdurrahman's proposal to admit East Timor and Papua New Guinea to ASEAN, the statement said that "no member made any proposal at the fourth AIS to admit new members".

President Abdurrahman Wahid recounted a conversation he had with Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the summit about the possibility of East Timor and Papua New Guinea's admission to ASEAN. However, he did not put it up as a proposal, the statement said.

"Had he done so, ASEAN practice requires a consensus on the admission of new members. It is not a matter that can be decided by one or two countries."

The press secretary refuted allegations that Goh, who chaired the summit meeting, made no mention of Indonesia's possible hosting of a planned ASEAN trade fair.

"The leaders had agreed to PM Goh's proposal that ASEAN countries that were less affected by the financial and economic crisis should spearhead or host initiatives to restore ASEAN's credibility and attractiveness to investors.

"This included trade fairs in which all ASEAN members would be invited to participate. The trade fairs would also be rotated among ASEAN capitals."

Further rebuttal also came against suggestions that Goh neglected to mention the southern part of the ASEAN region.

The statement stressed that "Goh expressly proposed that at the next ASEAN summit in Brunei, the leaders should discuss how to help the eastern part of ASEAN (the Philippines, Kalimantan, East Malaysia and Brunei) to grow".

On Abdurrahman's remarks that there was no need to follow Singapore's advice to master the English language for information technology, the statement noted that "it was Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, and not PM Goh, who gave this advice".

It pointed out that Mahathir explained that without English, ASEAN could not take full advantage of information technology.

"Goh and the other leaders agreed with Mahathir on the importance of English in the new economy." (byg)