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Naming of Indonesian ship would open old wounds

Singapore yesterday reiterated its concerns over Indonesia's naming of a navy ship after two Indonesian marines who took part in the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road.

Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen spoke separately to their Indonesian counterparts, Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto and Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro on the matter.

In response to media queries, the press secretary to DPM Teo said that Singapore initiated the phone calls to express "our concerns because we value the good relations we have with Indonesia".

"DPM Teo and Dr Ng, on behalf of the Singapore Government, respectfully asked that Indonesia takes into account the feelings of the victims and their families, and the implications and consequences, when making their decision whether to name the warship after the two marines."

They conveyed Singapore's perspective that the bombing was a wrong and grievous attack on civilians in Singapore that resulted in deaths and injuries.

"The matter had been closed in May 1973 when then-PM Lee Kuan Yew sprinkled flowers on the graves of the two marines. After this, both countries have put the issue behind us and moved on to build the close ties we now enjoy," added DPM's press secretary.

OLD WOUNDS

"However, the naming of the Indonesian warship after the two marines who carried out the bombing would re-open old wounds, not just among the victims and their families, but also for the Singapore public. Singaporeans would ask what message Indonesia is trying to send by naming its warship in this manner."

The latest response comes after a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman had said on Wednesday night that Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam had spoken to his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, to register these concerns.

Indonesia's Kompas daily had reported this week that the last of the Indonesian Navy's three new British-made frigates would be named the KRI Usman Harun, after marines Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

The duo were members of Indonesia's special Operations Corps Command and had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore during Indonesia's Confrontation with Malaysia. Singapore was part of Malaysia from 1963 to 1965.

The marines were found guilty and hanged for the bombing which killed three people and injured 33.Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has defended the decision saying the duo deserved the tribute for their service to the nation, The Jakarta Post reported.

Mr Djoko Suyanto said yesterday: "There's no need to change (the ship's name)."