Updated: 02/19/2014 03:12

Singapore will not allow Indon Warship "Usman Harun" to call at its port



File photo

File photo

Singapore will not allow the Indonesian warship, named after the MacDonald House bombers, to call at its ports and naval bases. 

Nor would the Singapore Armed Forces carry out military exercises with the ship. 

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said this in Parliament today, in response to questions fielded on the Government's response to the naming of the warship. 

The period of Konfrontasi, was a violent chapter in Singapore's history between 1963 and 1965. 

But it was the MacDonald House bombing by two Indonesian Marines in 1965 that sealed the memory of the dark period for Singaporeans. 

Three people were killed, and 33 injured. 

The two Marines, Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, were found guilty and hanged in 1968. 

Despite pleas for clemency from then Indonesian President Suharto, Singapore went ahead with the hanging. 

Foreign Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam said that was a defining moment for the nation. 

"Had we agreed to release them, it would have set the precedent for our relationships with all bigger countries. That we will - or we should - do what a bigger country asks and pressures us to do even when we have been grievously hurt. That is a different concept of sovereignty that is not good for us, which we cannot accept." 

Relations between the two countries were tense until then Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, visited Indonesia in 1973, and scattered flowers on the graves of the marines. 

Both countries considered the matter closed, so Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen said it came as an "utter surprise" when Indonesia decided to name one of its warships after the two marines, nearly 50 years later. 

"A ship named "Usman Harun" sailing on the high seas would unearth all the pain and sorrow caused by the MacDonald House bomb blast, which had been buried and put to rest.Singapore will not allow this military ship named "Usman Harun" to call at our ports and naval bases. It would not be possible for the SAF, as protectors of this nation, to sail alongside or exercise with this ship." 

Dr Ng said bilateral defence ties between the two countries have grown since 1974. 

But this incident has set ties back. 

"We want good bilateral military relations and we have to take it from there - to rebuild the mutual regard, the mutual respect that we've taken 40 years to reach here. It has set us back and I would say that over the next period we will see what we can do to rebuild ties but it also depends on what both parties do." 

As to how Singapore is prepared to deal with such tests of potential provocation from bigger countries, Mr Shanmugam had this response. 

"At the core, our defence has to be top rate. If we cannot protect ourselves, nothing else matters. Beyond that, you need to make sure that your regional relationships both bilaterally as well as multilaterally, through organisations like ASEAN, (are) strong. Thirdly, at the larger level, you do need therefore, a very strong network of international partners beyond the region." 

To survive in such a climate, Mr Shanmugam said it's also about ensuring Singapore is successful economically, socially and in defence.

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