SINGAPORE’S Foreign Ministry has expressed concern and disappointment over an incident on Wednesday at an international defence event in Jakarta, where two Indonesian marines posed as the perpetrators of the MacDonald House bombing in 1965.
The uniformed duo wore badges that said Usman and Harun, after Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were convicted and executed in Singapore in 1968 for the bombing that left three civilians dead and injured 33 others.
Indonesia plans to name a new frigate the KRI Usman Harun, after the two marines who were made national heroes in 1968. But the move, publicised in February, drew protests from Singapore and strained bilateral ties.
“We are concerned and disappointed over the incident at the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue (JIDD) exhibition,” an MFA spokesman said in response to media queries. “On learning of the incident, the SAF’s delegation at the JIDD withdrew from the event and returned to Singapore.”
Officials at the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta also spoke with representatives from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the Indonesian military to express disappointment over the incident, MFA said, adding that it was at “an international event to which Singapore was invited as a guest”.
The duo stood close to a model of the KRI Usman Harun that is scheduled to arrive later this year. A report on the new vessel’s name last month drew expressions of concern from several Singapore ministers, who contacted their Indonesian counterparts to say the move would reopen old wounds.
Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also told Parliament the ship would not be allowed to call at Singapore or its naval bases, neither would the Singapore Armed Forces sail alongside or take part in training exercises with the ship.
Indonesian officials, however, maintained that the duo had been declared national heroes, that the navy traditionally named ships after the country’s heroes, and that no ill-will was intended.
Yesterday, the MFA spokesman said he was puzzled by comments by Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro who, according to Indonesian media, said that there was “no problem” with the presence of the two marines at the JIDD.
“As Minister Purnomo would be aware, Singapore’s position on the naming of the Indonesian warship KRI Usman Harun was clearly laid out by Minister (Foreign Affairs) and Minister (Defence) in Parliament on 18 February 2014,” he added.
“The posing of the two marines at the JIDD did not reflect the spirit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s comments of 11 February 2014 that no ill-will or malice was intended towards Singapore.”
On Wednesday, Tempo.co reported that a number of officers took turns to take photos with the lookalikes of Usman and Harun.
The duo said that they were ordered by their superiors to do so.