In February the Indonesian navy said it would name a navy ship in honor of Indonesian marines Usman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said.
The ship would be called Usman Harun.
The two men were convicted and sentenced to death in Singapore for killing three people and injuring 33 others in the March 1965 bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore’s Orchard Road area. They were hanged in 1968.
Singapore had condemned the christening of the frigate after the two men, and withdrew from a series of planned joint-military activities and programmes, and said it would ban the Usman Harun from its ports and naval bases.
In an interview with Singapore’s state-owned media agency, Channel Newsasia (CNA), on 15 April, General Moeldoko was reported to have apologised for the incident.
Singapore’s Minister of Defence, Ng Eng Hen, responded to the apparent apology by saying, “I welcome General Moeldoko’s apology as a constructive gesture to improve bilateral defence ties between our two countries.”
He added, “The SAF will reciprocate Gen Moeldoko’s positive intentions by resuming bilateral cooperation and activities with the TNI, so as to strengthen the mutual understanding and friendship that have been built up over many decades.”
However, on Thursday 17 April, CNA reported that General Moeldoko has clarified that he in fact did not apologise for the naming of the frigate.
CNA reported on Thursday:
He [General Moeldoko] was asked by Channel NewsAsia senior Southeast Asia correspondent Sujadi Siswo about the decision to name a warship Usman Harun after the two Indonesian marines, and the ties between the two countries.
“Once again I apologise. We have no ill intent whatsoever to stir emotions. Not at all. Second, relations between the two countries are on the mend. There’ve been communications among leaders. Singapore’s Chief of Defence and I have spoken,” Genera Moeldoko had said.
Following the airing of the interview, General Moeldoko posted a link to the Channel NewsAsia story on his own Facebook page. There was, however, a mixed reaction. He was questioned by some Indonesians as to why he had apologised.
On Thursday, General Moeldoko reportedly made a clarification about his remarks at the President’s Office in Jakarta before a cabinet session.
The general was reported to have said that he was not apologising for the Indonesian Armed Forces naming the frigate after the two marines.
Instead, he was apologising that the Indonesians could not change the fact that the decision to name the ship was final and would not be changed.
According to the TNI’s public affairs head “the TNI Commander was expressing his regrets that the naming was final and would not change.”
Its letter to CNA, which was copied to the chiefs of staff of the Indonesian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the head of TNI Intelligence, cited its right of reply to the channel’s report so that there would be “no misinterpretation and misperception.”
Given the latest development, it is unclear whether Singapore will still resume “bilateral cooperation and activities with the TNI”, as Dr Ng said on Wednesday.