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Indonesia, M’sia to work on counterspying, haze

Publication Date : 20-12-2013


Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue expanding and seeking numerous cooperation — ranging from trade to hot issues such as the recent spying allegations and haze — during the 10th Annual Consultation meeting on Thursday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was in Jakarta to attend the meeting, which was deemed by both countries as a reflection of their commitment to making sure ongoing and future cooperation were on the right track.

Indonesia and Malaysia signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), including on student pass or stay permits and visas for higher education programs, as well as on youth and sports cooperation.

As in previous meetings, the issue of Indonesian migrant workers, or TKI, was still on the table.

“I thank Malaysia for its improved policy and regulations,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said after the meeting at Merdeka Palace. “There has been progress in the protection of TKIs.”

He later cited the programme to establish community learning centers for the children of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, saying “education is a basic right of all children”.

Najib, however, pointed out the importance of involving the private sectors of both countries in managing the Indonesian workers, urging them to also sign a cooperation framework.

A day earlier, Migrant Care activists staged a rally in front of the Palace to commemorate International Migrants Day, demanding the government to pay more attention to workers’ protection amid numerous abuse cases.

Both leaders also agreed to work together to handle haze from land and forest fires in Riau, Indonesia, which also often blankets Malaysia and Singapore.

Forest fires have been a major problem in Riau in recent years, as smallholders and plantation firms have allowed slash-and-burn farming methods. Malaysian plantation companies operating in Indonesia were also believed to have been involved in such practices.

“The point is that Indonesia will try to handle the haze, so will Malaysia. Should there be a problem, we will work it out together. I believe that with [cooperation], [coupled] with strong friendship, we can handle it,” Yudhoyono said.

During an October summit in Brunei, Asean leaders agreed to adopt a trans-boundary haze monitoring system, a recommendation from their environment ministers.

A call to sign the agreement emerged after haze from Riau blanketed Malaysia and Singapore in June and July this year. Singapore claimed that the recent haze was the worst in 16 years. The issue sparked a diplomatic war of words between Indonesia and the two neighbouring countries.

During the meeting, Yudhoyono earned Najib’s support for a plan to bring together Asean countries to counter snooping practices amid recent alleged operations involving Singapore and South Korea on Indonesia and Malaysia.

“[I will propose during the next Asean summit] an intra-Asean agreement to reject spying activities, whether those are committed by other countries against Asean members or between fellow members,” Yudhoyono said.

While Najib said it was necessary for the two countries to “give it attention during the upcoming Asean meeting”.

In terms of economic ties, both leaders agreed to work harder to increase trade cooperation to achieve the US$30 billion target by 2015 and to boost two-way investment.

Two-way trade between Indonesia and Malaysia in 2012 stood at $23 billion.

The annual consultation meeting was indeed beneficial for both countries, Najib said.

“We have seen increasing cooperation from year-to-year; [through this meeting] we can measure the progress of Malaysia-Indonesia ties, which is growing stronger and warmer,” he added.


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