Channel NewsAsia

Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers "would reopen old wounds"

Singapore has sent a strong signal to Indonesia that it opposes the naming of an Indonesian warship after two marines who carried out the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.

SINGAPORE: Singapore has sent a strong signal to Indonesia that it opposes the naming of an Indonesian warship after two marines who carried out the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.

A day after Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart to register Singapore's concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also spoke separately with their counterparts.

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

The bombing of MacDonald House along Orchard Road was carried out during the period of Konfrontasi, or confrontation, between Indonesia and Malaysia which began in 1962.

Indonesia had opposed the formation of Malaysia at the time, and Indonesian saboteurs had mounted a campaign of terror in Singapore.

Twenty-nine bombs had been set off in Singapore by the time of the MacDonald House bombing in March 1965.

The bomb left a mass of rubble after the blast, and every window within 100 metres was shattered.

Cars parked near the building or driving past were also damaged, and three people -- two Chinese and one Malay -- were killed, with a further 33 injured.

The two Indonesian marines responsible for the bombing were arrested within four days. They were charged with murder and hanged in 1968.

Following the hangings, the Singapore embassy and consul's residence in Indonesia were attacked and the Singapore flag was burned.

Mr Teo and Dr Ng said on Thursday that the matter was closed in May 1973 when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sprinkled flowers on the graves of the two marines.

But they said that naming of the Indonesian warship after the two marines would re-open old wounds, not just among the victims and their families, but also for the Singapore public.

And Singaporeans would ask what message Indonesia is trying to send.

However, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said that Indonesia had considered the issue "in a mature way".

He had spoken to Mr Teo on Thursday afternoon to state Indonesia's position on the matter.

Mr Suyanto said: "The Indonesian government has its rules, procedures and criteria for determining whether to honour a person as a hero. And in this area, there can be no intervention from other countries.

"The fact that there is a different perception of Indonesian government policy by other countries, in this instance, Singapore, cannot make us backtrack or be uncertain about carrying on with our policy decision and implementing it."

According to Channel NewsAsia’s senior Southeast Asia Correspondent Sujadi Siswo, Indonesian media quoted Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa as saying that the Indonesian government has noted Singapore's concerns but sees no reason to change the name of the ship, and considers the matter closed. 

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