12 February 2014

Moving Forward on KRI Usman Harun?

Indonesia's minister for foreign affairs Marty Natalegawa said that there was no ill intent when his government named a frigate KRI Usman Harun after the two Indonesian marines Usman Mohd Ali and Harun Said who were executed after being convicted of setting off a bomb in Singapore that killed three people and injured 33 others in 1965.

He said they thought that we would have forgotten about the bombing that took place almost 50 years ago. But at the same time, they did not forget their two so-called heroes whose sole claim to martyrdom was being caught and executed for their cowardly and criminal targeting of innocent civilians, which act is no different from the cowardly and criminal acts of present day terrorists.
He said that Indonesia would bear in mind the lessons from this episode and urged Singapore to move forward.

Move forward?
If he became aware, even belatedly, that Indonesia had hurt Singapore's feelings unintentionally, why did he not apologise and why did the Indonesian government not change the name of the frigate?

Compare his response with that of US President Barack Obama. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was outraged on finding out that the United States had been spying on her, Mr Obama apologised and said that such spying would stop.

But when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to apologise for his country's spying on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nor cease such spying, relations between the two countries became tense, and continues to be tense to this day.

Singapore government response
Our government has called for the Indonesian government to rethink the naming of the frigate.

The strongest response by our government so far has been twofold.

First, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin labelled the attack by the two Indonesian "martyrs" as cowardly.

Secondly, a dialogue between the defence ministries of the two countries has been rescheduled and an invitation to the Indonesian military brass to attend the Singapore Air Show was rescinded.

These are not enough.

What else can our government do?
Our government and Monetary Authority of Singapore should suspend all financial assistance to the Indonesian government and Bank Indonesia. In particular, we should suspend all new purchases, and perhaps even reduce our holdings if any, of Indonesian government debt securities and, to the extent it does not contravene MAS's obligations under any bilateral or multilateral agreements, not help support the Indonesian rupiah nor help provide liquidity to the Indonesian financial system.

Singapore had offered to Indonesia to update the tax agreement with the internationally agreed standard for exchange of information for tax purposes, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last April. If the tax agreement has not been updated yet, this process should be frozen.

All military exercises with the Indonesian military should be suspended.

The Indonesian military should not be invited to the Shangri-La Dialogue and similar functions.

Any and all Indonesians (other than NSmen) currently training at any SAF training institutes should be expelled.

The Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Tentera), or Meritorious Service Medal (Military), should not be bestowed on Indonesian military chiefs.

Our government should stop giving scholarships (e.g., under Singapore Cooperation Programme) to Indonesian students, starting with the coming academic year.

Mostly in a measured and calibrated manner, of course. We don't want our next-door neighbour's economy to founder, however provocative and insensitive it is.

Indonesia's agenda
The Indonesian leaders certainly are not stupid (except when they think we are stupid).

Are certain quarters trying to score political points in the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections this year?

Is the Indonesian government trying to tell us that it is unhappy with the state of the relationship between the two governments?

Recall that an Indonesian leader had described Singapore's reaction to last year's haze as childish.

Recall that Indonesia has refused to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which was signed in 2002.

Recall that Indonesia recently imposed an export ban on granite, which Singapore needs.

Is it due to unresolved allegations last November by Sydney Morning Herald that Singapore’s intelligence arm was working with Western nations to spy on Indonesia (and Malaysia)?

Is it due to our government's unwillingness to enter into an extradition treaty with Indonesia, without tying it to a Defence Cooperation Agreement, which the Indonesians view as being unfavourable to them?

This article was updated on 12 February 2014 at 4:45 pm

1 comment:

  1. I'm Indonesian but i still think they choose the wrong national
    "hero". I wouldn't considered someone who harming CIVILIANS as hero.
    Indonesia is a big country, we have more appropriate hero to be
    respected. Why choosing them? Imagine if one of YOUR FAMILY MEMBER dead
    because military aggression. You like your mother to never coming back
    because this stupid bomb attack? Then the "bomber" even get national hero title? let me say it loud, WILL YOU GLORIFY SOMEONE WHO KILLED YOUR MOTHER/FATHER/RELATIVES AS ANOTHER COUNTRY'S HERO? I don't think so except you have mental problem or really hating your family. We really have to know HOW TO DEFINE REAL HEROES, not just some BLIND NATIONALISM.