SINGAPORE: Former Indonesian President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was conferred a Distinguished Honorary Fellowship at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) on Friday (Apr 10), in recognition of his leadership as President, his contributions to regional and global leadership, and his role in strengthening ties between Indonesia, Singapore and the institute.

But Dr Yudhoyono, speaking to the media after the event, said he believes much more could be done to solve the many challenges ASEAN faces, saying that there was space for the community to work more closely to ensure that it brings benefit to all members of the regional group.

Asked about the proposed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), he said that regional economic integration would create a more cohesive and structured community. Through closer cooperation, poverty in the region could be halved in the long term, he added.

Dr Yudhoyono also said that bilateral relations between Singapore and Indonesia were “good, strong and progressive”.

He highlighted three areas that needed to be worked on by the two countries’ current set of leaders: Maintaining the achievements made over the years in terms of ties; finding more opportunities to strengthen trade and investment and tourism; and managing challenges and issues “well and properly”.

He added that he is optimistic about the relationship between the two republics. “If we could connect well, we could cooperate better in the future. I believe it will bring good things to Singapore, Indonesia and the region.”

MORE COOPERATION NEEDED ON HAZE ISSUE

On the topic of the regional haze, Dr Yudhoyono said a green growth model that balances economic growth and maintaining the environment was a necessary component in the development agendas of all nations.

Dr Yudhoyono, who is also the current Chairman of the Global Green Growth Institute, said all countries including Indonesia are “doing its best to overcome problems faced in its country, including the control of forest fires, putting a moratorium on the use of peatland and combatting illegal logging”.

He added: “Indonesia’s forests are seen as a green lung. It means that the global community must also work together with Indonesia because it is for their own interests.

“But on the other hand, we have a responsibility to protect our own environment. So this kind of understanding is very important to be shared by others, by Indonesia, ASEAN and other countries.”

“What we need is cooperation and partnerships. So that is my message to my successor and his administration: To continue working together with ASEAN members, because Indonesia is asked to maintain its forests.”

The ISEAS Distinguished Honorary Fellow Award recognises distinguished statesmen, royalties and scholars for their scholarly achievements, outstanding contributions to public service, and close links with Singapore and ISEAS. Dr Yudhoyono is the second recipient of the award, with the first conferred upon Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand when it was established in 2012.

– CNA/es