Singapore rejects claims it’s being ‘used as a platform’ for Indonesia’s presidential election

The Singapore government on Thursday refuted allegations it was being “used as a platform” for Indonesia’s February election, with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) saying it was aware of claims there were funds in the city state directed at supporting “certain candidates”.

The MHA did not specify in its statement who those candidates were, or the details of the parties circulating these claims.

“The Singapore government takes a clear and strong stand against the importation of politics of other countries into Singapore. Persons visiting, working or living in Singapore should not use Singapore to conduct political campaigning or fundraising to further a political agenda overseas,” it stated, stressing that the authorities would “deal firmly” with anyone found doing so.

A motorist rides past banners with pictures of campaigning parliamentary candidates along the street in Jakarta. Photo: EPA-EFE
This Week in Asia understands that these allegations were made on the YouTube channel of Abraham Samad, the former chairman of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission.
In a nearly hour-long video titled Intelligence Leaks: Conspiracy of Three Foreign Countries to Control the 2024 Presidential Election, Samad and Madigu Wowiek Prasantyo, a political analyst, claimed that China, the United States and Singapore were seeking to interfere with Indonesia’s vote.

The MHA’s statement comes weeks after Indonesia’s financial intelligence government agency announced it had uncovered suspicious million-dollar transactions related to the election on February 14.

The transactions, which involved 1 trillion rupiah (US$64.4 million), are linked to thousands of individuals with “various political affiliates”, Singapore broadcaster CNA reported last month.

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More than 204 million Indonesians will head to the ballot box next month to pick the country’s next president, vice-president and other political officeholders.

The presidential candidates include Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto; Anies Baswedan, a former governor of Jakarta; and Ganjar Pranowo, a former governor of Central Java.

Political observers who spoke to This Week in Asia said the MHA’s statement was addressed to the sizeable number of Indonesians in Singapore and meant to reiterate its stance on foreign interference in domestic affairs.

There are around 250,000 Indonesian nationals in Singapore, who make up just over 4 per cent of the city state’s population, according to statistics on the Vice-President of Indonesia’s official website.

Indonesian citizens living in Singapore are allowed to vote in the 2024 election.

Workers arrange ballot boxes prepared for Indonesia’s election and temporarily store them at a stadium in Jakarta. More than 204 million Indonesians will head to the ballot box next month. Photo: AP

“The MHA’s statement is just to serve as a warning to the vast number of Indonesians who are residing in Singapore not to engage in their domestic politics on foreign soil – this being Singapore,” said independent political observer Felix Tan.

“There are many overseas Indonesians based in Singapore,” he said. “In addition, Singapore and Indonesian diplomatic ties have always been closely intertwined. Hence, Singapore is also viewed as a potential platform to garner substantial votes for the respective candidates.”

The statement also seeks to maintain Singapore’s image of being a neutral player that does not take any stance on the affairs of other states, he added.

Eugene Tan, a law professor from the Singapore Management University, said it was necessary to nip such allegations in the bud quickly, given Singapore’s close ties with Indonesia.

“There were allegations made by influential Indonesian personalities. It was therefore appropriate for MHA to state for the record Singapore’s position and to caution those seeking to use Singapore to interfere in the domestic politics of another country,” he said.

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