The act of bringing the duo back to life caught the attention of the Indonesian press, who photographed the re-enactors at the Indonesian Navy booth at the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue. This event, held this past week at the Jakarta Convention Centre, attracted a global audience, many of whom saw a model of the warship named KRI Usman Harun alongside the marines dressed up as convicted terrorists.
Coming so close on the heels of the atmospherics over Jakarta’s decision to name a new warship after two Indonesian marines convicted and hung in Singapore for murdering civilians during the 10 March 1965 MacDonald House bombing, the picture is understandably newsworthy.
In decades past, our two countries have benefitted immensely from close and meaningful relations, which include interactions that take place aware from the media’s limelight such as specialised training for TNI warships and close collaboration with successive generations of high-ranking Komandan Gugus or Dangus (Force Commanders) from the Indonesian Navy’s various commands.
The Usman Harun episode has, alas, made many in Singapore see the side of the TNI that we hoped we would not be forced to see. Recent theatrics engineered by some players in Indonesia are textbook examples of statecraft that is insensitive, petty and bullying. Such behaviour is perhaps fuelled by a massive inferiority complex arising from Singapore’s success story. We should expect more mischievous stunts as some elements in Jakarta turn a blind eye to the hard work of many TNI officers, men and women at nurturing defence ties by exploiting the Usman Harun episode for their own agenda.
Indeed, none other than Indonesian defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro was quoted by the Indonesian media for commenting that there was “no problem” with the presence of the two marines at the event.
The relationship between the TNI and SAF is in limbo. Ties that took decades of joint effort to establish and mature have now been set back many years.
It is not business as usual.
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