Indonesian Foreign Minister insists naming of warship has no ill-intent

SINGAPORE — Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has assured Singapore that no ill-will or malice was intended in the naming of an Indonesian warship after two marines who bombed MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965, killing three Singaporeans.

The decision sparked off tensions between the two countries last week, with Singapore ministers calling for greater sensitivity, especially for the families of victims and survivors of the bombing.

Speaking in Jakarta on Tuesday, Dr Marty added that Indonesia is drawing appropriate lessons from the incident.

He said: “The most important message that must be underscored and must be understood is that no ill intent is meant behind the naming of this naval vessel.

“The reality is Indonesia and Singapore enjoy extremely close relations, really mutually beneficial, marked by complementarity of interests.

“And the recent episode of the past one week, I think, reminds us that while relations are very strong and very close, we need to constantly nurture this relationship and show that there is no unintended complications that arise from decisions made from whichever side.”

The tensions led to Singapore withdrawing an invitation to the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy and some 100 junior officers to the Singapore Airshow this week.

When asked if this would affect long-term bilateral relations, the Indonesian foreign minister said he did not think so.

Dr Marty said: “I don’t see the latest development as being harmful, going to do long-term damage to the relationship. It is what it is.

“We’ve had this dynamics going on over the past week.

“I’m sure that once the dust settles, once we reflect on the reality of the closeness of our relations, not least among the military when we speak about bilateral relationship — it’s not just government-to-government, people-to-people but also military-to-military and our Armed Forces – TNI – and the Singapore Armed Forces have been very close in terms of cooperation and exchanges of visits — I’m sure we’ll get to where we have been.”

“This has been a very somewhat challenging week. But I’m confident that given the fact — once again, no ill intent has been meant to be projected – we hope to be able to move on and further strengthen our bilateral relations.”

Dr Marty also made the point that the relationship between neighbours like Indonesia and Singapore goes beyond official protests.

He said: “We have received a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore — I believe it was yesterday — which explains Singapore’s position, especially its concern.

“But it simply puts on paper what have been registered verbally, orally as well. It’s a standard practice in any conduct of relations among states.

“But relations between ASEAN countries, especially neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Singapore, are not only about the formality of pieces of paper going back and forth but it’s just that knowing that in the final analysis we can put ourselves in the other (side’s) shoes to empathize.

“I hope we are. I am putting myself in Singapore’s shoes (to see) how you are seeing things from your perspective. Hopefully, you would also be able to put yourself in our shoes.

“The fact that this decision was made (of the naming of the vessel) was, I guess, made under the assumption as if this has been a closed chapter in 1973.

“Therefore those who had made the decision must have felt that this should not cause anymore furore because it’s already closed.

“Obviously, it hasn’t. It is creating some new dynamics, so we are drawing the appropriate lessons learned from it, in terms of both of us, Indonesia and Singapore, I’m sure and we will move forward.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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