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Singapore 'concerned' over Indonesia ship name

SINGAPORE -- Singapore has voiced concerns over Indonesia's reported plans to name a naval ship after marines who were executed for bombing an office complex in the city-state during a period of tense relations in the 1960s.

Singapore's foreign ministry said in a statement issued late Wednesday that Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam had spoken to his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa over the issue.

It said that Shanmugam, who visited Jakarta this week, registered “Singapore's concerns over the naming of the navy ship and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims” of the bomb attack for which the two Indonesian marines were executed.

“The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing, which killed three people and injured 33 others,” the statement said.

Indonesian daily newspaper Kompas Tuesday reported that the country's navy was planning to name a recently refitted frigate “KRI Usman Harun,” after Osman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, who were executed in Singapore for their role in bombing a downtown office complex in March 1965.

The attack was part of an effort by then Indonesian president Sukarno to stage an armed confrontation against the newly formed federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore.

Sukarno had whipped Indonesia into a fervor in the campaign of “konfrontasi” to display its objection over the inclusion of the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed federation.

The two marines were members of Indonesia's special Operations Corps Command, now the Marine Corps, who had been ordered to infiltrate Singapore.

Singapore acrimoniously split from Malaysia to become an independent country on August 9, 1965, and Indonesia's armed campaign dissipated a year later following the ousting of Sukarno.

“Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-PM Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines,” the Singapore foreign ministry statement said.

Indonesia is Singapore's third largest trading partner, with total bilateral trade reaching SG$79.4 billion (US$62.6 billion) in 2012.

Relations between the two countries hit a low point in the late 1990s after the fall of former dictator Suharto, and his successor B.J. Habibie famously referred to the tiny city-state as a “little red dot” on the map.

Ties have improved considerably in recent years under the stewardship of current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno.

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