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Indonesian warship in naming row barred from S'pore

Publication Date : 19-02-2014

 

Singapore will not allow the Indonesian warship named after two marines, whose 1965 bombing of MacDonald House killed three people and injured 33, to stop at its ports or naval bases.

It will also not be possible for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), as "protectors of this nation", to sail alongside or take part in training exercises with the ship KRI Usman Harun, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament yesterday.

He was replying to Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who had asked how the defence ministry and SAF would respond to the Indonesian Navy's decision to name the frigate after the duo who had bombed the Orchard Road building during Indonesia's Confrontation against Malaysia, which then included Singapore.

Dr Ng said the naming of the ship will have consequences on bilateral relations, and that "already, suspicions and resentments have heightened on both sides, setting back many decades of relationship-building in defence ties".

"We want good bilateral defence and close military-to-military ties with Indonesia," he added. "But strong defence ties can be built only on mutual trust and respect, expressed through appropriate acts that underscore friendship and amity."

Dr Ng as well as Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam fielded questions from five MPs yesterday on the ship-naming incident and future bilateral ties.

The two ministers, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, had each asked their counterparts in Indonesia to reconsider the ship's name. "We knew the harm it would cause to bilateral relations," said Dr Ng.

Singapore's ban on KRI Usman Harun is a first in the country's naval history. Such visits are traditional ice-breakers used by navies to establish or strengthen ties.

Dr Ng said Singapore and Indonesia have developed strong ties through joint patrols and military cooperation since 1974.

They treat each other as "sovereign equals" and SAF and TNI officials are able to discuss sensitive matters to find "amicable solutions", he said. But the naming of the warship, which came to light earlier this month, was "an utter surprise".

"Even without ill intent, how can the naming of the ship after the two bombers build good ties, or enhance mutual respect and regard with both our countries?"

Jakarta had said that the patrol frigate will operate in eastern Indonesia.

Commenting on the ban, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, a former armed forces chief, said: "The ship has not even arrived yet, so what's the fuss? Anyway, who says the ship will be taken to Singapore?"

 

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