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Indonesia's naming of navy ship: Sensitivity is a two-way street, says ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan

Published on Feb 13, 2014 9:45 AM
Security forces captured five of a group of 14 Indonesian infiltrators who landed at Ulu Sungei Belukang Kechil, near Pontian Kechil, in 1965. Indonesia waged a Konfrontasi from 1963 to 1966 against the Federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore until August 1965. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has told the Singapore media that "no ill intent was meant, no malice, no unfriendly outlook", when Indonesia named a new frigate KRI Usman Harun, after two Indonesian marines executed in 1968 for a 1965 terror attack on MacDonald House in Orchard Road that killed three and injured 33.

Singaporeans will no doubt be happy to know this. But I am afraid that the Foreign Minister entirely missed the point.

The issue is not Indonesia's intentions. It is something far more fundamental. Indonesians never tire of reminding Singapore that we should be "sensitive" and "neighbourly". But Indonesians do not seem to believe that they should be equally "sensitive" to their neighbours. "Sensitivity" and "neighbourliness" are to them a one-way street.

These are the facts: Between 1963 and 1966, then Indonesian President Sukarno waged a "Konfrontasi" (confrontation) of terror attacks and military action to "Ganjang (crush) Malaysia". Singapore was part of the Federation of Malaysia formed in September 1963 until August 1965 when it became independent.

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Background story


I do not expect the Indonesians to change the name of the ship. But would any Indonesian leader be prepared to emulate Mr Lee Kuan Yew and place a wreath at MacDonald House?

- Mr Bilahari Kausikan