'No ill will on Jakarta's part'

The warship KRI Usman Harun (right) with other new Indonesian Navy frigates at a shipyard in Britain.

JAKARTA - Indonesia had no ill will in naming a new naval vessel after the MacDonald House bombers, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"No ill intent, no ill will, and no malice is intended," Dr Marty told The Straits Times in an interview.

"We are keen to ensure there is a sense of mutual respect of where the other is coming from, and we can both move forward," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam had called Dr Marty last Wednesday to raise concerns about the Indonesian Navy's decision to name the frigate the KRI Usman Harun, after Osman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, two marines who bombed the Orchard Road building in 1965, leaving three dead and 33 hurt.

They were caught, tried and hanged here in 1968, but buried with full military honours in Jakarta, where they were declared national heroes.

Four other Singapore ministers also raised concerns, but Indonesia said it would stick by its decision.

The matter took a new turn over the weekend when Singapore cancelled invitations for 100 Indonesian officers to the Singapore Air Show, as well as a planned meeting, and senior Indonesian defence officials decided to cancel their scheduled visits altogether.

Dr Marty said Indonesia's perspective was that it felt the issue of the marines' attack was closed 40 years ago.

"The impression or the view was perhaps this is no longer a sensitive matter. But obviously, it still is, from Singapore's side," he said.

"That sensitivity has been registered, and we are aware of it."

Dr Marty added that the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent Indonesia a note to register its concerns, and he planned to reply.

"The episode of the past one week reminds us that while relations are very strong and very close, we need to constantly nurture this relationship and ensure there are no unintended complications that arise from decisions made from whichever side," he said.

"There has been some misunderstanding and a communication gap perhaps, but let us now let the dust settle and move forward.

"Indonesia really values its relationship with Singapore in all its dimensions, and we are very keen to continue on in that track."

Get The New Paper for more stories.