Indonesia’s undiplomatic behaviour

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We learnt as young adults that being diplomatic means not hurting another person’s feelings with words or behaviour. That is why modern foreign relations between countries involve diplomacy. Most nations understand that. Apparently, not Indonesia, however.

Singapore was invited to take part in the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue (JIDD) exhibition. The Singapore Armed Forces sent a delegation. At the event, however, two Indonesian marines posed as the 1965 bombers — regarded as heroes in their country — of MacDonald House. Three people died and 33 were injured.

Such undiplomatic behaviour clearly shocked Singapore, whose Ministry of Foreign Affairs “expressed concern and disappointment”, withdrew the SAF delegation who retuned to Singapore. The bomber lookalikes also stood close to a model of the Indonesian Navy vessel that had been named after the bombers, KRI Usman Harun.

Indonesia clearly has the right to behave as bullies on their home ground, and Singapore being the little red dot that it is, has to lump it. Indonesia clearly has no understanding of diplomacy, caught up as it is with its own electoral processes and the problems those present.

Fortunately, international diplomacy has gone beyond the “tit for tat”. The latest news from Jakarta states that two Indonesian ministers have expressed regret over the inappropriate conduct by the two Indonesian marines who had posed as the MacDonald House bombers at the JIDD event. Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Air Chief Marshal (Ret) Djoko Suyanto telephoned Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday and Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who spoke with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on the phone on Friday.

Singaporeans who want to show their frustration with Indonesia’s behaviour can simply exercise their economic power and travel to a country whose government doesn’t behave like a bully.