S'pore welcomes Indonesian apology on naming of warship

Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng.

SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday welcomed the apology from Indonesia's armed forces commander for the naming of a warship after two marines guilty of the 1965 MacDonald House bombing.

The incident in Orchard Road during the Konfrontasi period killed three civilians and injured 33.

Dr Ng said that General Moeldoko's apology on Monday was "a constructive gesture" to improve defence ties between the two nations. He added that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would "reciprocate (his) positive intentions" by resuming cooperation and activities with the Indonesian Armed Forces.

This would strengthen ties and friendship "built up over many decades", he said.

Gen Moeldoko had said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia: "We have no intent whatsoever to stir emotions. Not at all... I apologise."

His apology was the first by an Indonesian military official. However, he said that the ship's name - the KRI Usman Harun - will stay.

Relations between the two countries were strained after Indonesia decided to name the frigate after Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.

The two marines had bombed MacDonald House in 1965. Both men were executed here in 1968. Indonesia went on to declare them heroes and buried them with full military honours.

The ship's name drew protests from Singapore. The episode re-opened "old wounds", Dr Ng said in February.

Earlier that month, top Indonesian defence officials pulled out of the Singapore Airshow. Singapore's Defence Ministry did not deny rescinding their invitations.

Last month, two marines posed as the bombers at an international defence conference in Jakarta, causing the SAF to withdraw its delegation.

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

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