Under PM Lee and Joko Widodo, ‘Singapore and Indonesia are not just neighbours but friends’

“At one function, durian was only served at the table of the two leaders, but none at the other tables. So the ministers from both countries started crowding around their table and joked, ‘This is a lucky table, special table!’ The mood was very casual,” he added.

Such opportunities to banter and enjoy each other’s company are crucial, particularly amid tense global rivalries, Mr Ngurah said.

“The only real friends we have are each other. Whatever happens in Indonesia, whatever happens in Singapore, will have an impact on each other. That’s why it’s important for leaders to maintain very good relations, which will then be emulated by officials down the line,” he added.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Ngurah recalled helping to coordinate the delivery of personal protective equipment and masks from Singapore to Indonesia, and bedding for quarantine facilities from Indonesia to Singapore.

“This could only happen because at the top, the leaders have very good relations with each other,” he said.

When PM Lee’s father and founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew died in March 2015, both Dr Yudhoyono and Mr Widodo attended the wake.

The Indonesian diplomats expressed confidence that the bond between the two countries would continue to be solid even after PM Lee and Mr Widodo step down.

“Every leader has a role to play in strengthening relations.

“Building a relationship is just like building a house. Mr Lee Kuan Yew had laid the strong foundation for good Singapore-Indonesia relations. Mr Lee Hsien Loong had built strong walls and a roof,” said Mr Andri.

“Now, Mr Lawrence Wong will have to paint that house in the right colours to make it elegant, beautiful and comfortable,” he added. Mr Wong, who is Deputy Prime Minister, will take over from PM Lee on May 15.

Source link