Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers

From ‘Singapore concerned over naming of Indonesian navy ship after executed commandos’, 6 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussain, ST

Singapore has registered its concerns over Indonesia’s naming of a navy ship after two Indonesian marines who took part in the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said on Wednesday night that Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke to his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, to register these concerns “and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Indonesia’s Kompas daily had reported this week that the last of the Indonesian Navy’s three new British-made frigates would be named the KRI Usman Harun, after marines Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

“The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing which killed three people and injured 33 others,” the MFA spokeman said in response to media queries. “Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines,” he added.

The duo were members of Indonesia’s special Operations Corps Command, which is today the Marine Corps, and had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore during Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia.

In today’s context, Osman and Harun would have been labelled ‘terrorists’, and not a single mention of ‘terrorism’ or ‘terror’ was made in the entire ST article. In contrast, the original report on the bomb blast back in 1965 read ‘TERROR BOMB KILLS 2 GIRLS at BANK’. Dr Toh Chin Chye was also quoted as describing the tragedy as a ‘senseless act of cruelty’ and that people must play a more positive and determined part to ‘weed out terrorists’ in our midst.

In 2012, a blogger by the name of Thimbuktu captured the plaque on the facade of the still standing, and now National Monument, which tells us that the building was a ‘scene of a bomb attack by Indonesian TERRORISTS on 10 March 1965 during Konfrontasi’. I’m not sure if the inflammatory word has been edited since, or if anyone in the Middle East names warships after Saddam or Usama.

Among the innocents killed in the blast were 36 yr old Suzie Khoo, private secretary, 23 yr old Juliet Goh, filing clerk, and driver Mohammed Yasin bin Kesit, 45. I don’t remember the MacDonald House attack being mentioned in any of our history textbooks, nor any of the 37 bombs that hit us during the Sukarno led Konfrontasi. It wasn’t just public buildings being targetted. In Dec 1963, two men were killed in Sennett Estate, while another deadly bomb went off on April 1964 at a BLOCK OF HDB FLATS off Changi Road. The thought of such a disaster happening in the heartland is unimaginable, while people like Caleb Rozario are having fantasies about the MBS being pulverised by missiles from heaven.

LKY was in fact ‘persuaded’ by ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy to sprinkle flowers over the graves of the executed, a symbolic move that supposedly moved the Indonesia diplomat to tears. Lee wrote:

On the night of the banquet given by President Suharto, a bat flew into room which symbolised good luck for them. The relationship between Singapore and Indonesia had been restored.

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No, no one decided to lead the life of a Caped Crusader since that night, but the ‘flowers and bat’ effect didn’t last long. Ties were strained again in the late 1990s, with BJ Habibie calling us a ‘racist country’ and inadvertently giving us global branding by calling us, derogatorily, a ‘little red dot’, a moniker which has since stuck and used to death by STB. We blame them for the haze and they retort by saying we behave like little children.  In response to our ministers’ lament about the lack of respect from the ship naming, Golkar MP Hajriyanto Thohari had this to say: ‘Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick’ (Jakarta’s move reflects disrespect, 8 Feb 2014, ST). The use of ‘chicken’ is telling, but it also says a lot about the cock-and-bull story people come up with glorify murderers as heroes.

If our government hadn’t expressed their disappointment in the naming, I wouldn’t have figured that ‘Usman Harun’ referred to a couple of militant killers, nor would I have cared about what Indonesians name their vessels after. But whether or not we decide to urge the Indonesians to drop the unfortunate name, the bringing up of decades-old wounds is essential to remind ourselves of how vulnerable we can be in the face of unfriendly forces, and not to take our security for granted.

And yes, the MBS is too obvious a target for bombing. Try keeping an eye out on void decks for a change.

One Response

  1. […] on Change: Civility in the Face of External Provocation? – Everything Also Complain: Indonesia naming ship after MacDonald House bombers – Loh and Behold: Gunboat Diplomacy Neanderthal Style – Singapore Notes: Endangering […]

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