SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo lauded the close bilateral ties between Singapore and Indonesia on Thursday (Sept 7) as both countries marked 50 years of diplomatic relations and pledged to further strengthen cooperation.
Speaking after a Leaders’ Retreat meeting with Mr Widodo, Mr Lee said both Singapore and Indonesia are “neighbours by geography” but “partners by choice”, a point echoed by the Indonesian president.
“Our two countries are committed to broadening and deepening cooperation,” said Mr Lee in his toast speech at an official lunch hosted in honour of his guest, noting that the Retreat’s theme — Trusted Partners, Rising Together — reflected the two countries multi-faceted partnership based on mutual trust and benefit.
“But we can do much more together. Our bilateral relationship can only continue to deepen and benefit our two peoples, if it is supported by close rapport between the leaders.”
Returning the toast, Mr Widodo said that over the past 50 years, both sides have laid a “strong foundation” upon which cooperation in all fields have flourished. “We are neighbours by God’s will and by geography but we are and will always be good neighbours and close friends by choice,” he said.
“To this end, it is essential to always ensure that our next 50 years of cooperation is one that is based on mutual trust... ensures common prosperity to our nations, benefits our region and beyond,” added Mr Widodo. “Let’s work together as trusted partners, rising together.”
Both countries are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties with the tagline “Rising50” — an amalgamation of “RI” for the Republic of Indonesia, “Sing” for Singapore, and 50 for the anniversary.
A series of commemorative events held in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee marked “the breadth and depth of the bilateral relationship” between both countries, said a press statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday.
“During the Retreat, the Leaders agreed that it was important to continue leveraging on the trust and partnership that both countries had developed over the past 50 years,” the statement added. “With a positive and stable relationship, both countries would be able to build even more robust and mutually beneficial economic linkages.”
Earlier at a press conference at the Istana after holding talks with Mr Widodo, Mr Lee noted that 50 years ago to this day, Singapore’s then Foreign Minister S Rajaratnam signed a joint communique with his Indonesian counterpart, Adam Malik, to establish formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. “Our bilateral relationship has since grown and prospered. Generations of leaders have taken a long term and win-win approach, to cooperate for mutual benefit and solve problems amicably and sensibly,” said Mr Lee. “As a result, today we have a strong partnership based on mutual trust and respect.”
He added that during their talks, he had thanked Mr Widodo for his attention to tackling the forest and land fires and expressed Singapore’s full commitment to work with Indonesia to address the haze issue.
Mr Lee also said both countries agreed to work closely to tackle the threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia.
He expressed confidence that under the leadership of Mr Widodo, Singapore will continue to enjoy a “strong, forward looking and dynamic relationship” with Indonesia. “Looking forward to seeing Singapore and Indonesia rise together to greater heights over the next 50 years!,” he said.
On Thursday morning, Mr Lee and Mr Widodo planted a Sunda Oak tree that is native to both countries in the Learning Forest at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Following their retreat and a delegation meeting at the Istana, the two leaders unveiled a joint stamp and witnessed the signing of several Memorandums of Understanding on disaster management and education. They later viewed a combined flypast featuring aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Indonesian Air Force later and attended a business forum.