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"Helpful and constructive," says Foreign Minister Shanmugam of comments by Indonesian counterpart

Foreign Minister K Shanmugam has welcomed comments by his Indonesian counterpart, saying it is important that Indonesia understands and acknowledges that the naming of a warship after two marines who had bombed a Singapore building, impacts Singapore and the sensitivities of its people.

SINGAPORE: Foreign Minister K Shanmugam has welcomed comments by his Indonesian counterpart, describing them as helpful and constructive.

Dr Marty Natalegawa had said on Tuesday that there had been no ill-will or malice intended in naming an Indonesian warship after two marines who had bombed a Singapore building in 1965, killing three civilians.

Speaking to Singapore media, he said: "Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa made some very helpful comments yesterday.

"He has made clear that there was no ill-will or malice intended. That is very constructive. We welcome his comments."

Mr Shanmugam said that it was important for Singapore to know that Indonesia was not honouring the two marines for killing Singaporeans. 

"And it is also important that it is understood and acknowledged (by Indonesia) that the naming of the ships impacts on us, and impacts on our sensitivities."

He said it was just last week that Singapore found out that a warship was going to be named "Usman Harun" after the two marines. 
However, while it's Indonesia's sovereign right to name the warship as it chooses, he went on to add that sovereign decisions can have an impact on other countries, and in this case, Singapore. 

Mr Shanmugam said: "At the most benign, it could mean that Indonesia did not take into account Singaporeans' sensitivities, how Singaporeans would interpret the naming, given what the marines actually did in Singapore. 

"At the other end of the range, much less benign, is that Indonesia glorifies the actions in Singapore, rather than simply treating them as heroes who carried out their orders."

He also offered some background into Singapore's request to Indonesia to consider renaming the warships.

"This is therefore an area where Indonesia's sovereign right to name a warship intersects with a part of our mutual history, and Singaporeans and Indonesians' mutual decision to put that history behind us.

"And there has to be that sensitivity on the part of both countries to make sure it is behind us, and not reopen it. That is why we have asked Indonesia to consider renaming the warships.

"It is one thing to name a building in Indonesia, or bury them in the Heroes' Cemetery, it is quite another to name a warship. The signal is very different because a ship sails seven seas, carrying that message to every land the ship goes... to, as it carries that nation's flag."

Transcript of interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam (PDF 188.07KB)

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