MFA 'concerned' over 1965 bomber lookalikes at expo

SINGAPORE'S Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has expressed concern and disappointment over an incident on Wednesday at an international defence event in Jakarta, where two Indonesian marines posed as the perpetrators of the MacDonald House bombing in 1965.

The uniformed duo wore badges stating Usman and Harun, after Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were convicted and executed in Singapore in 1968 for the bombing that left three civilians dead and injured 33 others.

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.

"We are concerned and disappointed over the incident at the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue (JIDD) exhibition," an MFA spokesman said in response to media queries. "On learning of the incident, the SAF's delegation at the JIDD withdrew from the event and returned to Singapore."

Officials at the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta also spoke with representatives from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the Indonesian military to express disappointment over the incident, MFA said, adding that it was at "an international event to which Singapore was invited as a guest".

The duo stood close to a model of the KRI Usman Harun that is scheduled to arrive later this year.

A report last month on the new vessel's name drew expressions of concern from several Singapore ministers, who contacted their Indonesian counterparts to say the move would reopen old wounds.

Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also told Parliament that the ship would not be allowed to call at Singapore or its naval bases, and neither would the Singapore Armed Forces sail alongside or take part in training exercises with the ship.

Indonesian officials, however, maintained that the duo had been declared national heroes, the navy traditionally named ships after the country's heroes, and that no ill will was intended.

On Thursday, the MFA spokesman said he was puzzled by comments by Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro who, according to Indonesian media, said there was "no problem" with the presence of the two marines at the JIDD.

"As minister Purnomo would be aware, Singapore's position on the naming of the Indonesian warship KRI Usman Harun was clearly laid out by Minister (Foreign Affairs) and Minister (Defence) in Parliament on Feb 18, 2014," the spokesman said.

"The posing of the two marines at the JIDD did not reflect the spirit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa's comments of Feb 11, 2014, that no ill will or malice was intended towards Singapore."

On Wednesday, reported that a number of officers took turns taking photos with the Usman and Harun lookalikes. The duo said they were ordered by superiors to pose as the men.

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