Lessons to learn from Konfrontasi, says Maliki

Over 150 people, including families of victims and survivors of the 1965 bombing at MacDonald House, former volunteers and Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League members, attended yesterday's ceremony.
Over 150 people, including families of victims and survivors of the 1965 bombing at MacDonald House, former volunteers and Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League members, attended yesterday's ceremony.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Even as extremist groups try to intimidate people through violence, create fear and uncertainty, and disrupt lives, Singaporeans must not let fear overwhelm them, said Senior Minister of State for Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman yesterday.

He was speaking at a memorial to honour the volunteers and soldiers who defended Singapore during Konfrontasi, the period of hostilities with Indonesia in the 1960s.

More than 150 people attended the ceremony at the Konfrontasi memorial site opposite the Cathay building, held on the anniversary of the MacDonald House bombing. The explosion, set off by Indonesian saboteurs, killed three people and injured 33 in 1965.

Dr Maliki, the guest of honour, told the audience: "We draw lessons from that dark chapter in our history so that we can face today's challenge against a different threat from extremist organisations."

In the audience were families of the victims and survivors of the bombing, former volunteers and members of the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League, which organised the event.

Among the volunteers was a retired lieutenant-colonel, Mr John Tan, 77. He recalled how he was in the only unit that was deployed to Johor during Konfrontasi. He later quit his teaching job to become an army regular.

Mr Tan said uniformed youth organisations, such as the National Cadet Corps, are important in encouraging students to see their role in defending Singapore. Still, he believes people will step up if there is danger here. "I have confidence that if something really happens, even those who are not committed will respond," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Lessons to learn from Konfrontasi, says Maliki'. Print Edition | Subscribe