THE Indonesian Navy says its decision to name a new warship after two marines hanged for the 1965 bombing of an Orchard Road building that killed three and injured 33 was purely to honour men their nation had recognised as heroes more than 45 years ago.
"There was no other intention," chief spokesman Untung Suropati told The Straits Times yesterday, addressing concerns from Singapore over the consequences of the move.
The navy, he added, traditionally names frigates after heroes, and a committee made the decision after doing historical research and getting the approval of Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro.
Reports that the new vessel would be named KRI Usman Harun saw Singapore ministers contacting their Indonesian counterparts over the past two days.
They said the move would reopen old wounds and leave Singaporeans asking what message Indonesia was trying to send.
In response, senior Indonesian officials said there would be no change to the plan to name the vessel after marines Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were decorated after their hanging in 1968.
"The issue has been settled," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters yesterday.
But several MPs and observers did not think so, deriding Singapore's concerns in the media.
Golkar MP Hajriyanto Thohari, deputy chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, said Singapore's objections did not deserve a hearing because it did not know the two were national heroes.
"If need be, we should build a bigger, more sophisticated warship and name it KRI Usman Harun II," Antara News Agency reported him as saying.
"Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick," he added in Javanese.
International law expert Hikmahanto Juwana, from the University of Indonesia, said a soldier who dies in action is not acting on his own, but in the name of his country. He drew a comparison with how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was criticised for visiting the Yasukuni war shrine. Mr Abe regarded those enshrined as heroes while his country's neighbours saw them as war criminals.
"If Singapore's concerns are heeded and Indonesia changes its policies, then names like Prince Diponegoro, Sultan Hasanuddin, I Gusti Ngurah Rai and many more should not be used as the names of universities or airports in Indonesia, because the Dutch might be offended and raise concerns next," he said, citing well-known heroes who fought against Dutch colonial forces.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto had said on Thursday: "The Indonesian Navy has the authority and had considered in a mature way the paying of tribute to its heroes, so they are immortalised on a number of Indonesian warships."
Indonesian Democratic Party- Struggle MP Eva Kusuma Sundari told The Straits Times that the two marines remained Indonesia's heroes, and that both sides should look ahead, not backwards.
Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja