Photo of Lee Hsien Loong with Jokowi by Antara News

Speaking to the media after the meeting with Indonesia President Jokowi, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he has told President Jokowi to speed up on the approval of the direct flight between Singapore and Indonesia after the approval was abruptly revoked.

The three-times-a-week flight by Singapore Airlines (SIA) between Singapore, Jakarta and Sydney is supposed to commence on next week (Nov 23), but the permit was revoked indefinitely by the Indonesia’s civil aviation authorities who cited runway maintenance as an excuse.

In his exchange with President Jokowi, PM Lee Hsien Loong said that the direct flight is important to tourism of both countries:

“There needs to be certainty and confidence that aviation is growing for the tourism industry to build up its business. Because if you build up the business, and then it turns out that the aviation is not able to grow in time, well, that is a problem. I think he understood what I was trying to say.”

PM Lee Hsien Loong then pressured the Indonesian President telling him to expedite the process:

“The explanation given has been that it’s to do with the maintenance of the runway at Soekarno-Hatta and we hope that would be completed expeditiously and furthermore, if there is any impact on the airlines, it will be fairly distributed.”

Jakarta is currently seeing waves of protests against its ethnic-Chinese mayor by minority Muslim-rightists, whom have earlier quoted a verse from the Quran. The delay in the international direct flight between Singapore and Indonesia is likely a casualty of the protest, just as Indonesia President’s earlier planned meeting with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.