Naming of Indonesia warship

Singapore move signals 'strong displeasure' to Indonesia

Pulling air show invites indicates ship naming a serious issue, say observers

AS THE controversy over the Indonesian Navy's decision to name a new frigate KRI Usman Harun continues, officers and observers say it appears Singapore is keen to signal its strong displeasure on the matter.

Indonesian defence spokesmen said Singapore's Ministry of Defence rescinded invitations to 100 Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) officers who were slated to attend the Singapore Airshow starting tomorrow.

The move came days after five Singapore ministers conveyed their concerns over the insensitivity of the decision to name the ship after two marines who bombed MacDonald House in Orchard Road in 1965, killing three people and injuring 33 others.

Faced with this, and the fact that a scheduled meeting with Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing was no longer on the agenda, Deputy Defence Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin decided it would be out of place if he and other senior officers were to attend the air show as scheduled.

Hence, TNI spokesman Iskan- dar Sitompul confirmed that Armed Forces chief General Moeldoko, Army chief General Budiman and Air Force chief Ida Bagus Putu Dunia have also cancelled their plans.

Gen Moeldoko was scheduled to deliver a lecture organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) for Wednesday, but it would appear that is now off.

Military officers and observers see the latest developments as signalling that as far as Singapore is concerned, there are consequences to what many in Indonesia argue is an internal matter.

Dr Tan See Seng, deputy director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the RSIS, said the latest moves are a "reflection that Singapore treats this incident very seriously and wants to convey that impression".

Singapore feels the need to send a forceful message to the Indonesians that it does not condone acts of terrorism on Singapore soil, he said.

Mr Iisgindarsah of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta said it would be counterproductive if the issue was played up for long, adding: "They should not lose sight of the bigger picture."

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