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Habibie opens fire on Singapore army

Hong Kong Standard. February 11, 1999.

RELATED: S'pore politicians hit Habibie ''racists'' comment

INDONESIAN President B J Habibie has accused Chinese-dominated Singapore of discriminating against ethnic Malays in its military.

Institutional discrimination against Chinese in Indonesia had been abolished, but Singapore still blocked advancement by Malays in its armed forces, Mr Habibie told China Times in Taiwan.

``In Singapore, if you're a Malay, there is no way you can become an officer in the military.

``The real racists are there, not here,'' Mr Habibie was quoted saying.

Private groups in Singapore have harshly criticised the treatment of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, who make up just 4 per cent of the sprawling archipelago's 202 million people but control much of the nation's wealth.

Singapore's government-controlled New Paper yesterday criticised the remarks attributed to Mr Habibie. The newspaper said the number of Malay officers in Singapore had increased in recent years.

The tabloid, part of the government-linked Singapore Press Holdings publishing monopoly, ran pictures of a Malay lieutenant-colonel and air force pilot, data showing increasing numbers of Malay officers in the Singapore armed forces, and quotes from MPs.

The newspaper cited other critical comments Mr Habibie has made about Singapore since taking office in May, and suggested he ``must be wondering why his closest neighbour is relatively unscathed'' by the regional economic crisis.

``Wondering about it is OK. Talking about it is also OK. But to be upset or green-eyed about it? Well, we hope it is not that.

``With elections casting a dark shadow on the political players in Indonesia, Singapore can always be used as the convenient whipping boy,'' the newspaper said. - Agencies

 Published in the Hong Kong Standard February 11, 1999

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