15 Apr 2014
JAKARTA: The Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces has expressed regret over the naming of an Indonesian warship after two marines who carried out the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.
General Moeldoko told Channel NewsAsia that the Indonesian military had meant no ill will, and had not intended to stir up emotions in Singapore.
He said the episode has been a learning process, and he is confident that future ties between the two militaries would grow even stronger.
General Moeldoko said: "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 have been communications among leaders. Singapore's Chief of Defence and I have spoken."
However, General Moeldoko stressed that the name of the frigate 'Usman Harun' will remain -- a decision he said the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) had made in December 2012 after a long process.
Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said were the two marines who had bombed MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965, as part of former president Sukarno's Konfrontasi campaign.
Three people were killed and 33 injured in the attack.
General Moeldoko said the TNI had not foreseen that the naming of the warship would spark an emotional reaction from Singapore.
General Moeldoko said: "Indonesia didn't think that 'Usman Harun' would eventually turn into a polemic such as this. Why? It's because from the onset we did not have the tendency to stir emotions of the past. Not at all. However there are sensitivities that we did not foresee and it escalated. It is my responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief of the TNI to offer clarification and to take steps to ensure that the situation does not escalate."
The naming of the ship created a diplomatic row between the two countries in February.
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had assured Singapore that Jakarta meant no ill will or malice -- a move which was welcomed by his Singapore counterpart K Shanmugam.
But in March, Indonesian marines dressed as Usman and Harun were spotted at the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue.
It prompted the Singapore delegation to withdraw from the event.
General Moeldoko said he had since taken steps to de-escalate the situation and normalise ties between TNI and the Singapore Armed Forces, including inviting Singapore to take part in a multilateral exercise earlier this year.
General Moeldoko said: "We gave the opportunity to our Singaporean counterparts to join 17 other countries in the Komodo Exercise. To me it was a very positive step by us towards rebuilding ties."
He is confident that ties between the two armed forces will continue to be strong, and based on mutual trust, respect and honesty.
General Moeldoko said: "As long as we are able to maintain trust and honesty between us, I believe relations can proceed well. I am confident future prospects will be good because we are part of an ASEAN community that has common needs, common interests that I believe makes it easier for strong ties to be rebuilt."
It is the clearest admission thus far by the Indonesian military -- coming from none other than its Commander-in-Chief -- that the Indonesian military had misread the gravity of the impact the naming of the frigate would have on its relations with Singapore.
As General Moeldoko said, it is a learning process towards building even stronger ties between the two immediate neighbours -- and in particular the two armed forces -- that have forged close cooperation over the years.
POSTED: 17 Apr 2014
SINGAPORE: Some 48 hours after his interview with Channel NewsAsia aired on Tuesday, the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) has clarified an apology he made during the interview.
General Moeldoko said on Thursday that he had not apologised to the Singapore government for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who bombed MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.
Instead, he clarified that he was expressing his regret that the naming decision was final and would not be changed.
On Tuesday night, Channel NewsAsia aired an exclusive interview with General Moeldoko, during which he touched on the relations between Singapore and Indonesia, among other issues.
He 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," General 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.
These posts have since been removed from General Moeldoko's Facebook page.
On Wednesday, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed General Moeldoko's comments, and said the Singapore Armed Forces will resume bilateral cooperation with the TNI.
Earlier Thursday, General Moeldoko spoke to Indonesian media at the President's Office in Jakarta before a Cabinet session to clarify his views. He said that the apology had been for the fact that the decision to name the ship was final and would not be changed.
The head of TNI's public affairs had also written to Channel NewsAsia, citing the right of reply to clarify the comments by the TNI chief so that there would be "no misinterpretation and misperception."
Echoing General Moeldoko's comments to the Indonesian media, the public affairs head said that "the TNI Commander was expressing his regrets that the naming was final and would not change."
The letter was copied to the chiefs of staff of the Indonesian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the head of TNI Intelligence.
[The General is a soldier and a professional. But also a politician or someone with political ambitions possibly in the near future. ]
[Update: SG's govt's response.]
Apr 20, 2014
Singapore will accept Indonesia's apology at 'face value", says Ng Eng HenBy Toh Yong Chuan
Singapore will accept Indonesia's apology over the naming of a new warship at "face value", stressing that both countries have to find ways to move beyond it, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Sunday.
He was responding to clarifications by Indonesia's Armed Forces Commander, General Moeldoko, who said on Thursday that he did not apologise over the naming of a new navy frigate Usman Harun, after two Indonesian marines behind a 1965 bombing in Singapore.
The general had said in a television interview with Channel News Asia this week: "We have no intent whatsoever to stir emotions. Not at all... I apologise." But on Thursday, he claimed that the media had "twisted" what he said and he had merely said sorry for Indonesia's "final decision" to name the warship.
Dr Ng told reporters at the sidelines of a community event on Sunday that Singapore should not be drawn into the latest development. "It is not productive to get involved in their domestic politics," said Dr Ng.
[Translation: The General has domestic considerations and cannot be seen to be giving in to Singapore (generally seen as a "younger brother") or making concessions. Hence he has had to tone down his apology. But we know his intent and we do not wish to put him in a difficult position. We can try to seek greater clarity, but that would not be in SG's best interest. The TNI chief sincerely wants to work with and cooperate with SG. Putting him in a difficult position may mean that he may no longer be the TNI Chief. His replacement may be more belligerent, antagonistic, unreasonable, and generally impossible to work with. Sometimes, ambiguity is the best you can get and clarity serves little purpose.]