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Singapore bans Indonesian ship named after bombers

February 18, 2014

SINGAPORE (AP) — An Indonesian warship named after two marines who staged a deadly bombing in Singapore in the 1960s will not be allowed to dock in the city-state or take part in joint exercises with it, Singapore’s defense minister said Tuesday.

Ng Eng Hen told Parliament that the naming of the ship will “have consequences on bilateral relations.”

“Already suspicions and resentments have heightened on both sides, setting back many decades of relationship building in defense ties,” he said.

The KRI Usman Harun was named after commandos Usman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were sent by Indonesia to bomb an office on what is now Orchard Road in 1965 as part of President Sukarno’s “confrontation” policy with the Federation of Malaysia, which at that time included Singapore. Three civilians were killed.

Indonesian officials have defended the ship’s naming as an internal affair.

It’s unclear whether Indonesia’s government was aware that the ship’s name would offend Singapore. Analysts have said there is little chance that it will reconsider because it is an election year, and doing so would leave it open to attacks by nationalists.

Indonesian officials didn’t attend this month’s Singapore Air Show because of tensions triggered by the naming.

Both countries put their traumatic past behind them in the 1970s, but the relationship between wealthy, tiny Singapore and its developing and sprawling neighbor can be delicate.

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