Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Thursday that a recent spat between Indonesia and Singapore over the naming of a Navy ship was the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.
“We want to reiterate that the decision on the naming of this ship was in no way a reflection of any bad intentions toward Singapore,” Marty said at press conference in Jakarta.
The minister said the misunderstanding between the two countries might have been prompted by differing perceptions of the issue and the attendant details.
The Indonesian Navy reportedly plans to name a retrofitted frigate the “KRI Usman-Harun,” after Usman Ali and Harun Said, two marines who were executed in Singapore in 1965 for their role in bombing an office building in the city-state earlier that year.
“Indonesia mistakenly thought the issue had been settled and would, therefore, not cause any problems with Singapore,” Marty said, referring to then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s visit to the marines’ ceremonial graves in Jakarta in 1973, widely seen as a gesture to put the whole issue to rest.
“However, it is apparently still a sensitive matter to our neighbor,” Marty said.
Marty said Indonesia hoped the dispute over the naming of the ship could be settled immediately so that the two countries could resume their positive cooperation in various sectors.
Ties between Jakarta and Singapore have been strained ever since a report last week about the plan to name the frigate, with Singapore’s foreign ministry calling in a statement for Indonesia to rethink the decision.
Three people were killed and 33 injured in the bombing by Usman and Harun on March 10, 1965. The pair was executed on Oct. 17 the same year and named national heroes by Jakarta on the very same day.
The attack was ordered by then-president Sukarno as part of his policy of “ konfrontasi ,” or confrontation, against the then newly formed federation of Malaysia, of which Singapore was a part.
The bombing and subsequent execution of the two perpetrators dealt a serious blow to diplomatic ties between Jakarta and Singapore, which were only mended by Lee’s visit in 1973, when he scattered flowers on the soldiers’ graves.
The latest row has seen Singapore rescind an invitation to 100 members of the Indonesian Military to the Singapore Air Show. Singaporean officials also cancelled a planned meeting between the countries’ deputy defense ministers in light of the naming controversy.
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, and Purnomo Yusgiantoro, have both said they understood Singapore’s concerns but that there was no intention of inciting controversy with the decision to name the ship after Usman and Harun.
“As neighbors, conflicts will continue to be there,” Purnomo said. “What’s most important is for the two nations to achieve understanding.” The Jakarta Globe