FEB 14 — While we were happily celebrating the Lunar New Year, two of our neighbors, Indonesia and Singapore, were locked in a diplomatic tussle over the naming of a ship.
Indonesia named a frigate after two marines involved in a bombing incident in Singapore back in 1965, sparking a painful recollection of almost forgotten half a century old history and dissatisfaction in Singapore.
Young generation Malaysians might feel that this was nothing more than a matter between our neighbors and had nothing much to do with us. But in reality the cause of the bomb blast had everything to do with our country, and it was one of a string of events orchestrated by Jakarta to shatter Malaysia.
The blast took place at 15:07 on March 10, 1965, when Singapore was still a part of the Federation. Six months later, Singapore withdrew and became an independent nation.
Talking in today’s terms, it was a terror attack. A 25-lb time bomb was planted and set off near a mid-level elevator in MacDonald House, killing three and injuring 33 others.
The two Indonesian marines responsible for the blast were arrested, charged in a court and sentenced to death.
The incident deepened the tension between Indonesia and Singapore and Malaysia. Relations between Indonesia and her neighbors were only restored after President Soekarno was forced to step down in 1967.
The two suspects were sent to the gallows on October 17, 1968, and the Indonesia-Singapore relationship took a dramatic turn for the worse. More than 400 enraged Indonesian students stormed the Singapore embassy in Jakarta. The bodies of the two marines received heroic welcome from over 10,000 Indonesians when they were flown back to the country.
Confrontation between two nations could be very dreadful. Back to the 1963-66 Konfrontasi, then Indonesian president Soekarno launched a series of political and military offensives against Malaysia in an attempt to bring down the Federation of Malaysia. Other than deploying secret agents to infiltrate into Singapore to carry out their attacks, Jakarta also sent paratroopers into Labis and soldiers into Pontian, Muar and Kota Tinggi.
Fortunately the offensives did not get beyond that and after Soeharto took over the presidency, he ended the confrontation.
While minor hiccups do exist in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore relations in recent years, basically the trilateral relationship has been moving forward in a positive direction with accelerated interactions and social visits among people of these three countries.
Almost half a century has lapsed, and just when people have slowly forgotten this painful past, all of a sudden Jakarta was trying to bring back the memories of an old wound, naming one of its frigates after the two marines involved in the bombing, Osman Haji Mohammed Ali and Harun Said. The move not only got on the nerves of many a Singaporean, but also resurrected Malaysians’ painful memories of those turbulent years.
Why did Indonesia do that? What were its motives? Was it out of its own political needs at home or was it just trying to convey some kind of message?
A Political, Law and Security Affairs Ministry spokesman said, “The Indonesian Navy has the right to consider how it should honor its fallen heroes in a matured way. The government has a set of guidelines and standards which no other countries are allowed to intervene.” Such a response is totally immature, unacceptable and alarming.
The Konfrontasi was a painful part of our history, and once this old wound is brought back to life, further damages will invariably be wrought. There is no way we can accept the excuse of “honoring fallen heroes in a matured way,” which I think is very, very dangerous because it serves to whitewash and justify the acts of bloodthirsty murderers and glorify the terrorists.
While we can forgive, there is no way we should forget our past. History is like a mirror that will constantly remind us of the preciousness of peace.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.