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Asean Charter A No-go In Jakarta?


Several Indonesian legislators are threatening not to ratify the Asean Charter, declaring that they are upset over Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks on the pace of ratification among members.

They told The Jakarta Post that more factions in the House of Representatives would now oppose the document, allegedly because of the remarks by Lee during the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on 21 July.

National Mandate Party (PAN) legislator Djoko Susilo said: “We are really offended by Lee’s remarks. And now, it seems if we do ratify the charter we are just giving in to pressure from Singapore.”

At the meeting’s opening, Prime Minister Lee said that the timely ratification and implementation of the charter would signal Asean’s resolve.

He added: “The internal processes of member countries differ but the pace of Asean integration should not be set by its slowest members or else all will be held back by the problems of a few.”

Lee did not name Indonesia, which together with Thailand and the Philippines, have yet to ratify the charter, but said that Asean has decided to go ahead with the charter’s implementation without waiting for all 10 members to ratify it. The charter will make Asean a legal entity with obligations.

"We are still examining the charter but Lee’s remarks have negatively affected us."

A PAN lawmaker, Abdillah Toha, told The Jakarta Post that Lee’s remarks were “arrogant and threatening” and declared that parliaments in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines were ‘real’ parliaments—“unlike the ones in Singapore and Myanmar (Burma) which follow whatever their governments wish without reservation”.

Contacted by The Straits Times, Abdillah confirmed his remarks, adding that his party had reservations about the charter.

“Indonesia, as the biggest Asean country, should not agree to following the consensus decision-making process included in the charter, because it means a country with three or four million people could dictate to a country with 200 million people,” he said.

He added: “There is a lot of concern here over several clauses in the charter, such as the one on human rights, which is just not clear.”

The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, (PDI-P) the second-largest party in Parliament, has also rejected the ratification of the charter.

Its legislator, Andreas Pareira, said: “We have examined the Charter, and we are still wondering what we can get from it. I think we are only granting many advantages to other countries without getting anything from it.”

Agreeing, Star Crescent Party lawmaker Yusron Izha Mahendra said: “We are still examining the charter but Lee’s remarks have negatively affected us.”

Only two political parties have openly expressed support for the charter—Golkar, the largest party in Parliament, and the Democrat Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Both are in the government’s ruling coalition.

Analysts say that the outburst from the legislators had been expected as they have been known to be against the charter and would also react “emotionally” when it comes to dealing with Singapore.

Dr Maswadi Rauf of the University of Indonesia said: “They tend to be a bit emotional when it comes to Singapore and are easily offended.”
He urged the legislators to “speak up rationally”.

“The fact is, there has been a delay in ratifying the document by Indonesia and the legislators should come out to explain why they are against the charter instead of reacting emotionally,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an editorial titled ‘Beholden By Asean’?, The Jakarta Post said it disagreed with the Indonesian foreign ministry that the charter should be ratified.

“To ratify would be to sell out on the values and principles Indonesia stands for, including democracy, freedom and human rights—values and principles that are universal and acknowledged by the Asean eminent persons group,” it said.

It added that, in the absence of those values and principles, Burma, which has just ratified the charter, will continue to repress its people, and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will continue to remain in jail. (By SALIM OSMAN In Jakarta/ The Straits Times/ AsiaNews)

MySinchew 2008.08.02

 

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