Indonesia — Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s apology tohis neighbours following the recent haze has raised the country’s stature, saysMinister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
MM Lee was speaking to the media at the end of his visit to the US.
Mr Lee noted that the Indonesian leader has broken with the past with his act ofapology.
He said: “The fact that the President has broken with the past and he said,’I apologise to all my neighbours’ — that has raised Indonesia’s stature.
“People are saying, ‘Well, this is an Indonesia with some self-respect andself-regard and a sense of responsibility to the world around it, its neighboursand everybody else’.
“At the end of the day, do you want to be substandard, and thereforetreated in a different category or do you want to be taken as a serious andresponsible player in Southeast Asia and as the largest country in SoutheastAsia? That’s the challenge for Indonesia and that’s the challenge that thePresident of Indonesia has decided to pick up.”
President Yudhoyono called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 12 October andassured him that Indonesia would take effective measures to prevent futureforest fires.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the two leaders also agreed that Indonesia andregional countries would take concrete steps and develop a long-term plan toprevent the haze.
PM Lee had expressed his disappointment to the Indonesian President over therecurring haze problem in a letter which he sent on 11 October.
Minister Mentor Lee also spoke about the response of Malaysian Prime MinisterAbdullah Ahmad Badawi to his letter clarifying his recent comments about theChinese community in Malaysia.
MM Lee had said during an international forum in Singapore that ethnic Chineseminorities in Malaysia and Indonesia were being marginalised.
In his letter to Mr Abdullah, MM Lee had said he had no intention to meddle inMalaysian politics.
Nor did he have the power to influence Malaysia’s politics or to incite thefeelings of Chinese in the country.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit to the US, Mr Lee said that MrAbdullah’s response to his letter was much more measured.
MM Lee said: “Well, it’s much more measured, it’s calm and it has an eye tofuture relations. This is a little blimp on the horizon — it’s bound to happenfrom time to time because there are some fundamental differences between the waythey shape their society and the way we shape our society and the interactionbetween us as a result of our history and our different solutions to ourmulti-racial societies. So I would say that it’s a change for the better — it’smeasured, it’s calm and it has an eye to future cooperation, which we welcome.”
The Minister Mentor had also said in his letter to the Malaysian Premier thatrelations between Singapore and Malaysia have improved since Mr Abdullah tookthe helm in November 2003 and that both Singaporeans and Malaysians appreciatethis.
MM Lee had concluded that the last thing he wanted to do, after a decade oftroubled relations with the former Prime Minister, was to cause Mr Abdullah agreat deal of discomfort.