A bomb exploded on 10 March 1965 at 3:07 pm in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building known as MacDonald House. The explosion killed 3 people and injured 33 others.
MacDonald House is a distinctive red brick building located along Orchard Road. Completed in 1949, it was the first large office building of the post-war era. It was designed in Neo-Georgian style by architectural firm Palmer and Turner, and the red bricks were specially manufactured by Alexandra Brickworks to achieve the desired colour and texture. The building was officially opened on 2 July 1949 by its namesake, Malcolm MacDonald, the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia from 1948 to 1955. A liberal, he openly mingled with the non-whites and natives and distanced himself from the pompous culture of the European “snob clubs” of Malaya.
The bomb explosion occurred during the period of Indonesian Confrontation (or Konfrontasi, as Indonesians called it) with Malaysia where President Sukarno had vowed to crush Malaysia as a “neo-colonialist puppet state”. Indonesia’s foreign minister, Dr Subandrio, on behalf of Sukarno, declared Konfrontasi on 20 January 1963, eight days after Singapore’s incorporation into the new Federation of Malaysia. This aggressive policy was formally abandoned in August 1966 though it had effectively ended earlier in October 1965.
The bomb was placed near the lift on the mezzanine floor of the ten-storey building. The explosion ripped off a lift door while an inner wall on the mezzanine floor was blown inwards and the structure collapsed in a mass of rubble into the bank on the ground floor. Every window within a hundred yards was shattered and cars parked in the vicinity or driving past were damaged.
An official government statement said that it was “a senseless act of terrorism…We strongly condemn and deplore this attempt by the enemies of Malaysia to cow us into submission…The people’s answer to this cowardice should be resolution and vigilance”.
Arising from the bombing, two Indonesian marines were arrested and charged with murder. They were hanged on 17 October 1968. In retaliation, 400 agitated students in Jakarta, Indonesia, ransacked the Singapore embassy there and proceeded to attack the consul’s residence and the homes of two other Singaporean diplomats. They also burnt the Singapore flag.
Throughout the period of Konfrontasi, 37 bombs hit Singapore, the worst single incident being the MacDonald House bombing.