New insight into 1965 blast

SINGAPORE - The recent diplomatic row over the naming of an Indonesian navy ship after the two Indonesian men hanged for a bombing incident in Singapore in the 1960s has put the incident in the spotlight.

More information on the two Indonesian men, Harun Said and Osman Mohamed Ali, is revealed in the final episode of Channel NewsAsia's documentary Days Of Rage, which airs tomorrow. Titled Konfrontasi, it is about the March 10, 1965 bombing of MacDonald House, a building located on Orchard Road.

Series executive producer Tan Lek Hwa says that the hour-long programme features rarely seen footage sourced from various archives, as well as interviews with key people surrounding the event.

A highlight is a "very rare clip" featuring an interview with Harun's sister.

Says Tan: "Many people know this Harun guy only as a name, but in this clip, his sister will give viewers some insight into who he was and a bit about his background."

The documentary also features fresh interviews with survivors of the attack.

Another new interview, with the assistant superintendent of police who had been in charge of the two bombers' interrogation, "will give viewers insight into how the two bombers reacted during their interrogations".

The MacDonald House bombing, which killed three civilians and injured 33 others, took place during what is known as the Confrontation (Konfrontasi in Bahasa Indonesia), when Indonesia had opposed the newly formed Malaysia, which then comprised Singapore.

Harun and Osman were convicted of murder and hanged in Changi jail in 1968, but they were given a heroes' burial in Indonesia.

The recent naming of the ship after them has sparked a diplomatic row between Singapore and Indonesia, with Singapore asking Indonesia to consider renaming the ship.

Tan, who is also vice-president of current affairs at MediaCorp, says there is "no political agenda" in making the series, which covers the tumultuous period in the 1950s and 1960s when Singapore was on its way to achieving independence and took about a year to produce.

Regarding the MacDonald House bombing, she says: "No one would have expected the story to come back again and that the chapter would reopen. I guess it's also a learning point for us."

Other than that bombing, the series, which cost slightly more than $1 million to produce, looks at the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950, the Hock Lee bus riot in 1955, the 1964 race riots and the Laju hijack in 1974.

Tan says: "The objective of the series is to put into context the forces at play and how they are interconnected, and all the different perspectives behind these events in Singapore's history.

"When we were talking to people during the research, I was also very surprised to find that many people these days have no knowledge about these stories. Or maybe they've vaguely heard of them, but they don't know about any of the facts surrounding the events.

"As Singapore is heading to 2015 when it will celebrate its 50th anniversary, I think it's important for younger generations who haven't gone through those periods to learn and understand Singapore's history."

The feedback she has received so far about the show, especially from younger viewers, is that the topics are "refreshing".

She adds: "A lot of them said that these stories were new to them, or even if they have heard of the stories, they didn't know the details. They saw history come alive."

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