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MP hits out at reason given by Indonesian media for sand ban

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
27 February 2007

SINGAPORE: The land sand ban issue was not forgotten in Parliament, even though it has been over a month since Indonesia decided to bar sand exports to Singapore.

Speaking during the budget debate, Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah hit out at the reasons given by the Indonesian media for the ban and said that resource-shortage Singapore would have to be resourceful.

Singapore used to import a large amount of sand from Indonesia for construction purposes, until last month's ban.

Indonesia cited environmental reasons and border protection to back its move.

As a sovereign state, MP Indranee said, Indonesia has the prerogative to impose the ban.

And Singapore must find alternative for sand and other construction methods.

Ms Indranee took the opportunity to point out another pressing environmental issue.

She said: "It is heartening to note Indonesia's concerns about the environment. With the environment being of such great concern, it is hoped that Indonesia will take equally firm and decisive steps to deal with the problem of the haze and the forest fires that caused such devastating deforestation, especially in the light of the anticipated El Nino effect this year.

"And it's also hoped that the ban against forest fires will be enforced by the enforcement agencies with the same zeal and diligence that the sand ban is now currently being enforced."

Other than environmental reasons, Ms Indranee cited media reports saying the ban could be a way to pressure Singapore to resolve differences in extradition and some border negotiations.

She said: "If the reason is pressure, clearly we cannot accede. The extradition treaty negotiations are linked to the defence cooperation treaty negotiations and when it comes to something as important as defence cooperation, it cannot be entered into (with) anything less than equal standing between two countries, with equal give and take."

Ms Indranee said Indonesia should not forget that Singapore is also a sovereign state.

There should be no place for pressure in dealings between two sovereign states, especially not between friendly neighbours. - CNA/ir