Indonesian politician visits blast memorial

SINGAPORE - A potential Indonesian presidential candidate yesterday visited a memorial at MacDonald House, the site of a 1965 bombing, and laid flowers at the Orchard Road monument.

Dr Dino Patti Djalal, 48, had also laid flowers a day earlier at the graves of the two marines who carried out the bombing.

He said that his personal gesture was "to highlight the fact that this issue is sensitive to both nations".

"It's a painful period for both of us. Given the fact that this issue has somewhat recaptured public imagination... I think it's important to do this act of laying the flowers at the graves of Usman (and) Harun (the two marines)."

Referencing then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's conciliatory gesture in 1973, when the Singapore leader laid flowers on the graves in Jakarta, Dr Djalal said: "I realise as I look at the issue, one thing that remains to be done is for an Indonesian to pray at the site of the bombing, because these were innocent victims. So this is the purpose of my visit."

His act comes a week after two Indonesian marines posed as the perpetrators of the bombing at an international defence event in Jakarta, prompting Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express concern and disappointment.

Indonesia's decision to name a new frigate, the KRI Usman Harun, after the two marines who were made national heroes in 1968, was publicised last month. It drew protests from Singapore and strained bilateral ties.

The pair were convicted and executed in Singapore for the bombing that left three civilians dead and 33 injured.

The former Indonesian ambassador to Washington is a participant in the ongoing presidential convention of Indonesia's Democratic Party, and is known to be a close ally of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, having been a presidential spokesman for foreign affairs.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.