No ill intent in naming warship: Indonesia's Foreign Minister

Indonesia has no ill intent in naming its new Navy frigate the KRI Usman Harun, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Tuesday, in an attempt to repair a bilateral row with Singapore that has dominated headlines over the past week.

"No ill intent, no ill will, and no malice is intended," Dr Marty said in an interview with The Straits Times, adding that Jakarta took the recent turn of events seriously.

"We are keen to ensure there is a sense of mutual respect of where the other is coming from, and we can both move forward."

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam had called Dr Marty last Wednesday to raise concerns about the Indonesian Navy's decision to name the vessel after Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, two marines who bombed MacDonald House in Orchard Road in 1965 that left three dead and 33 hurt.

The duo were convicted and hung in 1968, and buried with full military honours in Jakarta where they were declared national heroes.

Four other Singapore ministers also raised concerns, but Indonesia said it would stick by its decision, which was made in Dec 2012 in line with its tradition of recognising heroes, and reported in a Kompas newspaper article last week.

The matter took a new turn over the weekend when Singapore cancelled invitations for 100 Indonesian officers to the Singapore Air Show, as well as a planned meeting, and senior Indonesian defence officials decided to cancel their scheduled visits altogether.

Dr Marty said Indonesia's perspective was that it felt the issue of the marines' attack was closed 40 years ago.

"The impression or the view was perhaps this is no longer a sensitive matter. But obviously, it still is, from Singapore's side," he said.

"That sensitivity has been registered, and we are aware of it."

Dr Marty added that Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent Indonesia a note to register its concerns, and he planned to reply.

"The recent episode of the past one week reminds us that while relations are very strong and very close, we need to constantly nurture this relationship and ensure there are no unintended complications that arise from decisions made from whichever side," he added.

"There has been some misunderstanding and a communication gap perhaps, but let us now let the dust settle and move forward.

"Indonesia really values its relationship with Singapore in all its dimensions, and we are very keen to continue on in that track," he said.

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