BANDA ACEH, Indonesia: Singapore’s Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing has praised close cooperation with Indonesia’s armed forces after the Boxing Day tsunami hit a decade ago, noting that humanitarian and disaster relief has now become a key component for militaries in the region.
Mr Chan spoke in Banda Aceh where he is attending a commemoration ceremony marking the rebuilding efforts since a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's western coast sparked a series of towering waves that killed almost 170,000 in that country and tens of thousands more in countries round the Indian Ocean.
The special relationship between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) made it possible for the SAF to carry out its biggest humanitarian and relief operations, Mr Chan said, and it showcased capabilities that made him "quietly proud" and that built deep and personal ties among commanders of both forces at all levels.
“I think it would be fair to say that we would not be able to conduct the operations if there was no deep and string relationship between the Indonesian side and the Singaporean side that was built up over many years," said Mr Chan.
"And this relationship is very unique because it actually transcends at all levels – from the highest political level, to the military commanders and to the people at every level," he added. "That kind of relationship allows us to work with the Indonesian authorities including the TNI very quickly (and) very seamlessly over the course of the relief effort as it unfolded in Indonesia.”
SAF had helped open another access point in Meulaboh – also badly hit by the tsunami, helping to widen access to relief from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, Mr Chan noted.
In addition, the Regional Humanitarian Coordination Centre located at Changi launched in September of this year has helped foster greater multilateral cooperation in disaster and humanitarian relief, Mr Chan said.