SINGAPORE — Indonesian media yesterday reported that Singapore had rescinded an invitation to the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy and his delegation of around 100 junior officers to the Singapore Airshow, which starts tomorrow.
An Indonesian Defence Ministry spokesman was reported as saying that he understands that the cancellation was connected to Indonesia’s decision to name a naval warship after two marines responsible for a deadly bombing on MacDonald House in 1965 that left three dead.
When contacted by TODAY to confirm if the invite was indeed withdrawn, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) spokesman Kenneth Liow declined to comment. But when pressed, Colonel Liow did not deny the Indonesian reports.
TODAY also understands that after a dialogue between Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing and Indonesia’s Deputy Defence Minister Lieutenant-General (Ret) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin was rescheduled, Mindef was informed that Indonesia’s Lt-Gen (Ret) Sjafrie, along with three of his military top brass, have decided not to attend the airshow.
Col Liow said: “MINDEF has been informed that Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces General Moeldoko, Indonesia Deputy Defence Minister Lieutenant-General (Ret) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army General Budiman and Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force ACM Ida Bagus Putu Dunia have decided not to attend the Singapore Airshow.”
Metro TV News quoted Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto as saying: “Since the invitation was cancelled, (there’s) no need to go.”
The Indonesians’ decision to name a new frigate KRI Usman Harun saw several Singapore Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, conveying their concerns to their Indonesian counterparts.
Mr Chan also said the Indonesians’ decision reflected either a lack of sensitivity, a lack of care for bilateral ties, or both.
The frigate was named after Osman Haji Mohd Ali and Harun Said, who were members of the special force that infiltrated Singapore during Konfrontasi and carried out the attack that killed three people and injured more than 30 others. They were tried and convicted, and hanged.
Bilateral relations were restored only in 1973, after Singapore’s then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sprinkled flowers on the graves of the two men.