Indonesia, Singapore join forces to patrol seas, fight terror

Tom Abke

Defense leaders from Indonesia and Singapore pledged closer cooperation and coordinated responses to shared threats during a series of meetings that focused on terrorism, maritime security and joint military operations.

High-level defense officials from the countries held meetings in July and August 2018. In Jakarta, Rear Adm. Lew Chuen Hong, chief of Singapore’s Navy, visited the commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, Chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto. He then met with Vice Adm. Hadiyan Sumintaadmadja, the Indonesian Defense Ministry’s secretary general, and other senior officers. Meanwhile, in Singapore, Indonesian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mulyono was given a military award by Singaporean Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen.

The Jakarta meetings covered counterterrorism efforts and trilateral patrols in the Malacca Strait involving Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, reported Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense. Tjahjanto discussed the May 2018 bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia, involving the development of an entire family being involved in a terrorist attack. He emphasized the need for information sharing to prevent future attacks. Lew affirmed Singapore’s interest in stepping up cooperation with Indonesia to fight terrorism.

“On dealing with terrorism, Indonesia works not only with Singapore, but also together with many other nations,” Indonesia’s Director General of Defense Strategy Brig. Gen. M. Nakir told FORUM. “As we know, both terrorism and radicalism are currently major threats. One of the best ways to tackle terrorism is by working together through capacity building, exchanging and developing each country’s personnel by joint studies, workshops or joint training.”

Nakir said the trilateral patrol, which is a joint coordinated patrol, involves each participating country using its resources to patrol its waters while coordinating with the other countries if a threat arises. “You can see that the trilateral patrol is working to reduce or minimize maritime threats,” he said. “The number of threats in the area has clearly downsized.”

In meeting with Sumintaadmadja, Lew expressed hope that education exchanges could soon involve the exchange of instructors and not just students. (Pictured: Indonesian Vice Adm. Hadiyan Sumintaadmadja, right, greets Singaporean Rear Adm. Lew Chuen Hong in Jakarta.)

“Indonesia and Singapore are working together on many levels,” Nakir said, “especially on capacity-building measures, by exchanging personnel to study in each other’s country. Indonesian personnel often attend the seminars held by the Singapore military, likewise when Indonesia conducts such an event. This way, we share valuable information and experience on dealing with terrorism and radicalism.”

Indonesia’s Mulyono was honored by Singapore with the Pingat Jasa Gemilang Meritorious Service Medal for his leadership role in expanding bilateral cooperation between the two armies, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Defense. He was lauded specifically for facilitating collaboration on the Leopard Main Battle Tank platform, which allowed the national armies to share experiences through simulated and hands-on training; the Army Interaction Games; the Senior Officers Visit Program and several other achievements.

“With Gen. Mulyono’s support, the regular conduct of key bilateral exercises such as Exercise Safkar Indopura and Exercise Chandrapura have contributed to the interoperability and professional development of both armies,” said a statement from Singapore’s Ministry of Defense.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.