Singapore, Jakarta in diplomatic row over deadly 1965 bombing in city state

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 11:02pm


A fresh diplomatic row has erupted between Singapore and Indonesia over a 1965 bombing in the city state, after the Indonesian navy dressed two marines as the perpetrators at a defence exhibition.

Singapore was "concerned and disappointed" after the two men appeared at the event in Jakarta this week dressed as Indonesian marines Usman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were executed for the bombing, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Three people were killed and 33 others injured in the bombing of MacDonald House, in downtown Singapore, in March 1965.

The attack was part of efforts by then-Indonesian president Sukarno to stage an armed confrontation against the newly formed federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore. The two marines had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore and carry out the attack.

Indonesian Defence Minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro said yesterday in Jakarta that the stunt was "clearly inappropriate".

"We have asked the navy to look into this and investigate who has done this," he added.

Navy spokesman Untung Suropati, speaking earlier yesterday, described the two marines as "heroes" who should serve as role models for young Indonesians. "Usman and Harun are our heroes, and it was an international expo with a young generation of the military and students visiting," he said in Jakarta.

"We need to show them we have great heroes in the hope that they can be role models for them."

He added that when the navy designed the booth, they were not aware that Singapore would be attending the conference.

Singapore said a delegation from its armed forces had pulled out of the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue exhibition on Wednesday after learning of the stunt, while diplomats from its embassy in Jakarta had spoken with officials there "to express disappointment".

The two marines had been stationed at the navy's stall at the exhibition dressed in uniforms and purple berets, with "Usman" and "Harun" on their name tags.

Navy spokesman Suropati said the "Usman" and "Harun" models proved to be a hit.

"We gathered up the most beautiful female navy officers for our booth but, unbelievably, visitors were more attracted to Usman and Harun," he said.

Indonesia outraged Singapore last month by naming a newly refurbished navy frigate "Usman Harun" in honour of the marines.

The ship has been banned from Singaporean ports and naval bases.