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Prabowo's mission to have key defense and extradition pacts ratified

Jakarta Post - September 11, 2022

Kornelius Purba, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo signed a presidential regulation on a flight information region (FIR) agreement Indonesia signed with Singapore in late January of this year, along with the long-delayed defense and extradition treaties, on Monday. The latter two pacts require approval from the House of Representatives to take effect.

Especially when it comes to the government's efforts to have the Indonesia-Singapore Defense Cooperation Agreement ratified, the role of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto will be key. Now Prabowo has a perfect opportunity to demonstrate his "presidential" capacity to the national and international community by convincing the lawmakers why the DCA matters to Indonesia. Prabowo himself signed the first treaty on behalf of Indonesia on Jan. 25 in Bintan, witnessed by Jokowi and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In fact, Prabowo could push the House's ratification of the extradition treaty, considering that he also chairs the Gerindra Party, the third-largest faction in the government coalition-controlled House after the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the Golkar Party.

Prabowo should not miss this rare opportunity to demonstrate his leadership. He can help Jokowi realize the ratification by the end of this year.

The ruling coalition has 82 percent of the House seats, theoretically allowing the government to break no sweat in winning the legislative approval of the two treaties. But this was not the case back in 2007, when the House, which was controlled by the coalition supporting then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, refused to ratify the DCA and extradition treaties. SBY gave up the ratification process as he did not want to fight the opposition, which reportedly included the Indonesian Military.

The political dynamics at that time should teach Prabowo a valuable lesson to clear the legislative hurdles.

When paying a courtesy call to Prime Minister Lee in June, Prabowo praised his host's leadership in strengthening defense cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the completion of the package of DCA and extradition treaty. "We fully support strong defense cooperation with Singapore, which is built on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and respect for territorial sovereignty and international law," Prabowo was quoted as telling Lee.

Prabowo should now prove his commitment, but he will be racing against time. The ratification of DCA and extradition treaty should take place before the end of the year, considering that 2023 will be an election year when all political parties and candidates will be gearing up for the simultaneous legislative and presidential elections slated for Feb. 14, 2024.

Prabowo himself will devote his time and energy to the 2024 elections next year. He has declared his intention to run for president for the third time and lead Gerindra to another success. In one way or another, the House's ratification of the Indonesia-Singapore DCA and extradition treaty will define Prabowo's prospects in the 2024 elections.

The opposition, academics, civil society and ultra-rightists have demanded that the House reject the two agreements once again, saying Indonesia will be the loser when they are ratified.

They forget the fact that a strong Singapore, and its close military cooperation with the United States and other western forces, benefits Indonesia a lot, especially now that the country is bidding to modernize its aging military equipment through both procurement or transfer of defense technology.

It is safe to say that Indonesia still relies on western technology, although it has diversified its primary defense-equipment system as a result of the arms embargo the West applied in the past. It is undeniable that Indonesia needs a strong military in the face of increasing tension between global powers in the Indo-Pacific region and threats to its territorial integrity.

Indonesia is also very eager to have an extradition agreement with Singapore because the city-state is believed to be a safe haven for corrupt people and tax evaders Indonesia has been hunting down for a long time. Singapore will facilitate the extradition of the fraudsters who are hiding on the island, but in return, the neighbor wants a defense arrangement that will provide training grounds and spaces for its armed forces.

We probably do not realize the complexity of extradition, which requires Indonesian law enforcers to go down a long and winding road to finally get the wanted crooks and bring them to justice. The difficulties in upholding justice against the state-money embezzlers often come from within, as there are many corrupt law enforcers who have expertise in seizing opportunities to enrich themselves.

In their retreat in Bintan Islands in January, Jokowi and Lee witnessed the signing of the FIR agreement, DCA and extradition treaty between the two countries.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi and his Singapore counterpart S. Iswaran inked the FIR agreement, Prabowo and his counterpart Ng Eng Hen signed the DCA, while Indonesian Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly signed the extradition treaty.

Under the FIR agreement, "parts of Singapore's FIR that cover Indonesia's airspace above the Riau Islands and Natuna Islands – spanning some 249,575 kilometers squared – will come under Indonesia's FIR".

The island state has managed airspace over Riau and Natuna Islands since 1946. "However, Indonesia will delegate the provision of air-navigation services for a part of this realigned airspace to Singapore for 25 years, a period that may be extended," the Straits Times reported.

In a video posted on the Presidential Secretariat's YouTube channel, Jokowi said the FIR ratification would "increase aviation-safety assurance and can increase non-tax state revenues and this can be the motivation to modernize aviation-navigation equipment and develop Indonesian human resources".

Jokowi has played his part in realizing the long-overdue agreements with Singapore. Now it is Prabowo's turn to prove his leadership capacity in pushing the House to ratify the DCA and the extradition treaty. Prabowo should not miss this golden opportunity, which perhaps only comes once in a lifetime.

[The writer is a senior editor of The Jakarta Post.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/09/11/prabowos-mission-to-have-key-defense-and-extradition-pacts-ratified.htm