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Singapore rebuts Wahid's ASEAN summit complaints+.

SINGAPORE, Nov. 28 Kyodo

Singapore on Tuesday issued a detailed response to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's complaints that last week's summit of Asian leaders, hosted by Singapore, neglected Indonesia and the southern parts of the region.

A statement issued by the press secretary to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong gave an inside glimpse of what transpired during a meeting of the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea.

''The leaders agreed that ASEAN should consolidate itself, in particular, to integrate the newer members of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos with the rest of ASEAN,'' the statement said.

''Most ASEAN leaders, and also the leaders from China, Japan and Korea, focused on projects in the Mekong Basin countries,'' it said.

The statement said Goh had ''expressly proposed that at the next ASEAN summit in Brunei, the leaders should discuss how to help the eastern part of ASEAN (the Philippines, Kalimantan, East Malaysia and Brunei) to grow.''

ASEAN leaders and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea agreed last week to set up a working group to study the possibility for a summit of East Asian leaders and the feasibility of an East Asian free trade zone. There were also several projects to develop the Mekong River basin.

On Wahid's gripe that Indonesia was left out of ASEAN's trade fair plans, the statement said, ''The leaders had agreed to Prime Minister Goh's proposal that ASEAN countries that were less affected by the financial and economic crisis should spearhead host initiatives to restore ASEAN's credibility and attractiveness to investors.''

''This included trade fairs in which all ASEAN members would be invited to participate. The trade fairs would also be rotated among ASEAN capitals,'' it said.

On Wahid's comment that there is no need to follow Singapore's advice and master the English language for information technology, the statement said it was not Goh, but Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had said that during the summit.

On Wahid's complaint that Singapore leaders did not support his proposal to bring East Timor and Papua New Guinea into ASEAN, the statement said nobody had made any proposal to admit new members during the meeting.

''Had he done so, ASEAN practice requires a consensus on the admission of new members. It is not a matter that can be decided by one or two countries,'' it said.

Wahid also accused Singapore, which has a Chinese majority, of being anti-Malay, and that it ignores its neighbors except when there are profits to be made.

''Basically, Singaporeans despise Malays, we are considered nonexistent,'' Wahid was quoted as saying by several newspapers in Indonesia on Sunday. Some Indonesian's share the same roots as Malays.

''They just look after themselves, all they just look for are profits,'' he said.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 4, 2000
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