Singaporeans can learn lessons from Konfrontasi to face extremist threat: Maliki

More than 150 people attended the ceremony at the Konfrontasi memorial site opposite the Cathay building.
More than 150 people attended the ceremony at the Konfrontasi memorial site opposite the Cathay building. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - 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 on Thursday (March 10).

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."

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post on Thursday that "our generation today, as the pioneer generation did, must find the strength and unity to protect and preserve our harmony" against the threat of extremist violence.

In the audience at the memorial 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. He said: "I have confidence that if something really happens, even those who are not committed will respond."