After Singapore rescinded invitations to the chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy and to a group of 100 junior officers from the Indonesian Armed Forces, Indonesia has responded by withdrawing its top brass from the military from the Singapore Airshow altogether.
An Indonesian military spokesman said he believed Singapore pulled the invitations of the 100 lower-level officers because of Indonesia’s decision to name a navy ship after two Indonesian marines.
The Singapore Ministry of Defence (Mindef) “did not deny this latest development” when it was queried by local media on the withdrawal of the invitation.
The invitation, according to news reports, “was to a dialogue which was to have taken place at the Singapore Airshow, which officially starts on Tuesday.”
On Sunday night, the Indonesian government responded by announcing its withdrawal of several of its top military leaders from the Airshow. These included:
– Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces GEN Moeldoko
– Indonesia Deputy Defence Minister LG (Ret) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin
– Chief of Staff, Indonesian Army GEN Budiman
– Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force ACM Ida Bagus Putu Dunia
A Indonesian government statement also said that a visit by Sjamsoeddin to Singapore for a “strategic dialogue” had been scrapped too. It is unclear if the dialogue is the same as the one the Indonesian Navy Chief was to attend.
Sjamsoeddin, a retired lieutenant general, also cancelled a lecture he was to give at a Singapore university, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.
The apparent tit-for-tat is the latest actions by both sides which have resulted from the dispute over the naming of a military ship after two bombers by Indonesia.
Last week, Indonesia announced that a Navy ship would be named after Second Sgt. Usman bin Haji Muhammad Ali and Second Cpl. Harun bin Said.
The two marines, who have been declared national heroes by the Indonesian government, were executed in Singapore in 1968 for carrying out the bombing that killed three and injured 33 at MacDonald House in Singapore’s Orchard Road area in 1965.
The Indonesian government actions were met with concerns being raised by the Singapore side, with at least 5 ministers so far weighing in on the matter, including S’pore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, and Defence Minister, Ng Eng Hen.
DPM Teo said Singaporeans would question the message that Indonesia is sending by naming the frigate KRI Usman Harun.
A statement from his office said: “DPM Teo and Dr Ng, on behalf of the Singapore Government, respectfully asked that Indonesia takes into account the feelings of the victims and their families, and the implications their families, and the implications and consequences, when making their decision whether to name the warship after the two marines.”
The Indonesian government, however, said earlier that the matter was a domestic decision and that others should not interfere in it.
”We regret the cancellation since we have good relations on the technical level,” an Indonesian spokesman said. ”We should not mix this with politics.”
Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, had visited the graves of the two soldiers in Indonesia in 1973 – eight years after the bombing – and sprinkled flowers over their graves. The act was reported to have appeased the Indonesian government and public, and was seen as final closure on the matter.