Careless act or an election gimmick?

Careless act or an election gimmick?
Indonesian soldiers posing for photos with the lookalikes of marines Usman and Harun - who were convicted and executed in Singapore in 1968 - at the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue exhibition on Wednesday.

SINGAPORE - The upcoming elections in Indonesia could well be playing a part in fuelling the recent spate of incidents which have ruffled Singapore's feathers.

At an international defence conference in Jakarta last week, two Indonesian marines posed as Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, the perpetrators of the MacDonald House bombing in 1965.

This follows Indonesia's decision last month to name a new frigate as the KRI Usman Harun, after the duo who were executed in Singapore.

Political observers said that both incidents could have stemmed from the need to drum up local support in the light of the approaching polls.

"In an election year, it may be difficult for the Indonesian government to backtrack on its decision to name a warship after the two marines, now that the issue has become public knowledge in Indonesia," wrote Associate Professor Leonard Sebastian of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

He added that, with "anti-Singapore elements" surfacing from time to time, one can only conclude that "certain individuals within Indonesia's military establishment bear a grudge against a perceived humiliation in 1968 and have refused to let bygones be bygones".

The two marines were executed in 1968.

National University of Singapore political science lecturer Hussin Mutalib noted that last week's incident was due to "either a lapse on the part of senior defence officials...or a deliberate act of junior staff whose own initiatives were left much to themselves".

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