Jokowi-Lee’s achievements: Jakarta Post editorial

The two leaders have laid down a strong foundation for future bilateral relations between the two Asean neighbours that their successors will nurture, the paper notes.


Indonesian Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi (right) and his Singaporean counterpart S. Iswaran show the documents of Jakarta-Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR) Realignment Agreement as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (second right) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong look on January 25, 2022, on Bintan Island, Riau Islands.(Courtesy of/Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

March 23, 2023

JAKARTA – The bilateral summit between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his host Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week marked a new and more mature relationship between the two countries, as reflected by their announcement on the ratification of three much-delayed agreements, two of which were politically sensitive for Indonesia.

With the ratification, the two leaders have laid down a strong foundation for future bilateral relations between the two ASEAN neighbors that their successors will nurture.

Unless the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) suffers a shock defeat or significant decline in votes in the 2025 general elections, it is almost certain Singapore will see a power transfer from Lee to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, the current deputy prime minister. In Indonesia, a new president will be elected in February 2024 and take office in October.

Following up the signing of the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), the Agreement on the Realignment of the Boundary between the Jakarta Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Singapore FIR and the extradition treaty the two governments signed during the Jokowi-Lee summit in Bintan in January last year, the ratification of the three pacts went through with relative ease. For Indonesia the long-awaited extradition deal will facilitate repatriation of corruption convicts hiding in Singapore. along with their ill-gotten assets.

The DCA negotiations had sparked fierce debate in this country, with many, fueled by nationalist sentiment, believing the defense cooperation scheme would constitute a loss of Indonesian sovereignty by allowing Singaporean military to train on Indonesian soil. This was also the case for the FIR, which had for decades been perceived here as Singapore’s control of certain parts of Indonesian air space.

During the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian and Singaporean governments signed the DCA and the extradition treaty, but all was lost after the House of Representatives refused to ratify the DCA in 2007, citing its perceived breach of Indonesian territorial integrity.

That the House has finally ratified the politically sensitive DCA only underlines the need for give and take in negotiations. In the end, both parties should benefit from the agreement. The House deserves credit for the ratification, in particular because the lawmakers acknowledged the treaties were of great importance for both Indonesia and Singapore.

It is quite surprising, however, that the ratification process of the DCA and extradition treaty at the House went largely unnoticed. The media only once reported a hearing between Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and the House regarding the DCA. The media was also unaware President Jokowi had signed a decree on the FIR.

As explained by PM Lee, Singapore and Indonesia have jointly asked for approval from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of the new arrangements under the FIR agreement. Following the ICAO’s consent, Indonesia and Singapore will meet to set a date for implementation of the FIR realignment.

Under the new FIR arrangement, Indonesia will take over control of the air space of 249,575 square kilometers over the Riau and Natuna Islands from Singapore. But Indonesia will provide the provision of air navigation services in portions of the airspace to Singapore. This agreement will remain in force for 25 years and can be extended by mutual consent. 

Apart from the treaties, President Jokowi’s much-heralded capital city relocation project and ASEAN’s efforts to restore peace in Myanmar were tabled during the annual retreat at the Istana in Singapore. As the chair of ASEAN this year, President Jokowi insisted that the Myanmar military junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing had no choice but to abide by the five-point consensus the general agreed to during the emergency ASEAN summit in Jakarta in April 2021. PM Lee, too, remains consistent in putting pressure on the junta to respect the consensus.

The two leaders have rightly warned the junta to walk the talk, or else the door will remain closed to its representatives in any ASEAN meetings.

scroll to top