SINGAPORE, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Senior Indonesian military leaders have decided not to attend the Singapore Airshow, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence said on Sunday, after the eruption of a diplomatic row between the two countries over the naming of a Indonesian naval ship.
Singapore’s government has been angered by Jakarta’s decision to name a new frigate after two Indonesian marines executed for a 1965 bombing in the city state that killed three people.
The commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, Gen. Moeldoko, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Budiman and Indonesian Air Force Chief of Staff ACM Ida Bagus Putu Dunia along with Indonesia’s deputy defence minister, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, have decided that they will not go to the Singapore Airshow, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry did not provide any reasons for the decision or comment on whether it had rescinded the invitation to the leaders.
The airshow begins on Tuesday and runs until Sunday.
The two marines were convicted for the March 1965 bombing of MacDonald House on Orchard Road during Indonesia’s “confrontation” with the newly formed Malaysia, which Singapore was part of at the time.
The marines were executed in Singapore in 1968, but in Indonesia were given the status of national heroes and received a ceremonial funeral.
Several Singapore government ministers contacted their Indonesian counterparts last week asking them to reconsider the ship’s name, saying they believed the matter was closed when then-Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew scattered flowers on the marines’ graves in 1973.
The row marks another pressure point in the delicate relationship between the two Southeast Asian neighbours whose ties were tested last year when the annual burning of Indonesian forests blanketed Singapore in a thick smog.
“I hope the Indonesian leaders will not sacrifice our bilateral relations, so carefully built up, to domestic politics or through carelessness,” Singapore’s Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing said in a statement on Friday.
Indonesia has defended the naming decision, saying it is in line with the practice of naming vessels after the country’s heroes. (Reporting by Rachel Armstrong and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Stephen Powell)