Personal contact key to improving understanding

I was disappointed that Indonesian military leaders will not be coming here for the Singapore Airshow and a planned meeting with their Singaporean counterparts ("S'pore cancels invites to Indonesian officers"; Monday).

It was a mistake for Singapore to cancel the invitations. While it will undoubtedly convey Singapore's displeasure at Indonesia's decision to name a navy ship after the two marines who bombed MacDonald House in 1965, it is not the most effective way to get the

Indonesians to understand and respect the feelings of Singaporeans in the long term.

The visit would have been an apt opportunity for the Indonesian military leaders to be confronted with the reality of the two marines' handiwork.

The survivors and families of those who died could have asked them, in person, why the deliberate killing of innocent civilians was considered heroic and worthy of commemoration.

The Indonesian visitors might not be able to give an answer, and this might not change the mind of the Indonesian government. But the personal contact would have made an impression on the visitors, who would take it back with them to their country.

Chen Junyi

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