Jokowi and Lee sign key agreements

Fruitful visit: Lee (left) and Jokowi greeting each other during their annual leaders’ retreat in Bintan. — Reuters

Indonesia and Singapore signed a bilateral extradition agreement, a move that Jakarta expects to help authorities in their effort to bring to justice people accused of stashing offshore billions of dollars in state money.

Senior Cabinet ministers from both countries also signed bilateral agreements covering airspace and defence in a ceremony aired on Indonesia’s State Secretariat YouTube channel yesterday.

The signings follow a meeting between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the Indonesian island of Bintan as part of their annual leaders’ retreat.

The issue of extradition has long been a frustration for Indonesia because of concerns over the difficulty of bringing some fugitives accused of embezzling large sums during the Asian financial crisis to justice.

“The extradition treaty will enhance cooperation and combating crime and send a clear, positive signal to investors,” Lee said at the signing ceremony.

Under the extradition agreement, those who had committed 31 types of crime will be liable to be extradited and it will apply to offences committed up to 18 years ago, a statement from Indonesia’s investment and maritime affairs ministry said.

The agreement would also mean that people would not be able to escape justice by changing their citizenship, it said.

“Therefore, the implementation of the criminal extradition agreement will create a deterrence effect for felonies in Indonesia and Singapore,” the statement said.

In 2007, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Lee oversaw the signing of an extradition treaty and defence cooperation agreement, but it was never ratified by Indonesia’s parliament.

Indonesia has set up a new so-called “BLBI” task force that is going after US$8bil of bailout funds given to bank owners and borrowers after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s that was never repaid.

“Specifically, for Indonesia, the implementation of the extradition agreement will reach effectively fugitives of the past and facilitate the implementation of a presidential regulation on BLBI,” said the ministry statement.

The other agreements signed between the countries include one giving Indonesia more control of airspace over the Riau and Natuna islands, areas close to both countries, and a defence agreement.

On the airspace agreement, Lee said: “President Jokowi and I decided that it was time to decisively settle these long standing bilateral issues. We endorsed a framework which would address the needs and interests of both sides.”

The agreements conclude years of debate between the two neighbouring countries.

In 2015, Jokowi started pushing to reclaim the airspace over the islands near Singapore, which has been managed by the city-state since 1946. The area serves as a corridor for flights in and out of Singapore’s Changi airport.Once put in place, the flight information region agreement will uphold air traffic safety and efficiency in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, Lee said.

The deal comes after the two nations resumed quarantine-free travel between Singapore and nearby Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan. — Reuters/Bloomberg

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