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Naming of ship after MacDonald House bombers digs up painful memories

The move by Indonesia to name a warship after the two marines who bombed MacDonald House, leaving three dead and 33 injured, has dredged up painful memories among Singaporeans affected by the blast.

SINGAPORE: The move by Indonesia to name a warship after the two marines who bombed MacDonald House, leaving three dead and 33 injured, has dredged up painful memories among Singaporeans affected by the blast.

They said the attack took away their loved ones and left many with permanent scars, and they cannot understand why the Indonesian government has chosen to revisit the incident now, almost 50 years later.

The Singapore government has registered the country's concerns and asked Indonesia to consider the implications of the moves, especially the effect it will have on the families of the victims.

The bombing, which occurred on the afternoon of March 10 in 1965, tore a massive hole in the MacDonald House building's floor and even ripped out a lift door.

The impact of the bomb placed on the floor just beside the lift shattered all the windows within 300 feet and damaged all the vehicles outside the building.

One of the three victims was a bank employee, Elizabeth Choo, 36.

Mdm Choo's daughter, Janet Ng, said the two Indonesian marines who were behind the bomb attack are not heroes, and she still thinks about her mother.

“On the day of the execution, I was called up and (the two bombers) said that they would love to see me to ask for forgiveness. I told them I forgive them, but I cannot do anything for them, to save them.

“Whenever I pass by Orchard Road, MacDonald House, (I think) that's where my mother died, leaving six of us as orphans overnight.

“Today, it's still painful -- she disappeared in thin air overnight, and we depended on her to survive, to... bring us up.

“Why did they want to bring it up again after so long? Why did they want to do it, to bring back the pain to all the three families again?

“I wish that the whole subject is closed, and I want to thank the government for trying to stop the whole issue," said Ms Ng.

Another person who suffered both mentally and physically from the incident is Kenny Yeo, who was 24 years old when it happened.

The attack has scarred him for life, after he sustained injuries that needed 366 stitches all over his body, and left him blind in one eye.

"I am angry, but since this is an event of the past, we should just forgive. If they want to provoke us, just let them -- unless we want to clash with them, then I have nothing to say," said Mr Yeo.

Singaporeans Channel NewsAsia spoke with said Indonesia's move to have the ship named after the two convicted marines is inappropriate.

Some said the name will bring back bad memories to Singaporeans and families of the victims, and that it is inappropriate and in very bad taste to dig up old wounds.

However, others said that Singaporeans should remember the past as a history lesson and to forgive. 

Meanwhile, the man tasked to help mend bilateral ties between Singapore and Indonesia after the 1965 MacDonald House bombing, said the attack was an aggressive move against Singapore's internal security.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy served as Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia between 1970 and 1974.

In 1973, Singapore's then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sprinkled flowers on the graves of the two marines behind the bombing during an official visit to Indonesia -- restoring bilateral relations.

But the former ambassador said the attack had serious implications at the time.

"Of course it shows an aggressive motive -- to interfere with our internal security, to bomb and kill our people."

He added: "If Singaporeans bomb Jakarta, it's bad. You should not interfere with other countries... it's wrong.

“I feel that once Mr Lee Kuan Yew put flowers, the matter is settled. You should not take it out again. They're already in heroes’ graves."

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