Sunday, 9 February 2014

Like Yasakuni?

So I asked myself, "is the Indonesian naming of their warship after two criminals we executed for murder similar to the Japanese PM visiting the Yasakuni Shrine?"

First of all, I was never really bothered by the visits to the Yasakuni Shrine. I understand that there are thousands of war dead buried there, and about 14 (?) were war criminals. But because of those few War Criminals, the whole visit is suddenly controversial?

Secondly, Lee Kuan Yew visited the graves of the two marines, sprinkled flowers over their grave. Was he honouring them and was that a slap in the face for their victims, and the victims families?


The two marines were buried in Heroes Cemetery. Do we have a right to object to their entombment in a place of honour like Heroes Cemetery? Of course not.

So Jakarta is going to have some streets named after them. Should we object?

Again no.

So why should it bother us if it is a ship? Let our former ambassador to Indonesia explain:
"They could have named a building in Jakarta after the two. But a ship travels to other countries and if others see the names of terrorists, it can be seen as Indonesia not having given up its aggressive motives," said Mr Lee (Khoon Choy), who was Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia from 1970 to 1974.

That is a good point. Let me also add that it is a WARSHIP.

And suddenly the implied message becomes clearer.

About the only way a ship could be a good idea is if they named a hospital ship or refugee relief ship after the two, and the message is that they want to rehabilitate the reputation of those two men.

Otherwise, it is a clear signal that Indonesia have not renounced their imperial aspirations.

If Japan were to name a new warship after one of their war criminals, their intent would be questioned, and they would be raising a lot of concern among her neighbours.

Similarly, SG's concern is, what is the message Indonesia is sending to their people, to Singapore, and to observers in general?

Implicitly the Indonesians are saying to their soldiers and other Indonesians - these two men did heroic things (like bombing unarmed civilians, and killing women), in Singapore. They are worthy of emulation and so we are naming a WARSHIP after them. They should be your role models, as well.

Are they saying (to their soldiers): "if we ever need to send you to Singapore to blow things up, remember these two men, who obeyed without question, who did (dishonourable) things for the sake of their country, and did not flinch from targeting civilians, killing women. They are HEROES, and PATRIOTS. And will be remembered as such, and if you follow in their footsteps, one day you too might have half a WARSHIP named after you."

The message Singapore is hearing is, "we sent these two men to sabotage your city and kill your people during Konfrontasi, and we are not sorry about it. Not only that, we consider them heroes. Yes, what they did is exactly the same as the Bali Bombers of 2002. BUT DIFFERENT. Because they are working for US! They were pursuing our military, and national objectives, perhaps in a violent manner. If necessary, we may consider using this tactic again. These are patriots and we have a lot of them here."

Indonesia needs to clarify what is the implicit message of their naming their ship after these two saboteurs. If it was truly a simple naming exercise, without any intent to send any kind of message (above), then the Indonesians need to be more sensitive.

I do not have any anger against the two soldiers. They are pawns in the game. No professional soldier joins the military to blow up civilian targets. No professional soldier would think that being executed as a murderer for carrying out their orders is an honourable way to die. They obeyed. They obeyed horrible, despicable, dishonourable orders because they were obedient soldiers. Patriots even. (And Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels?)

So they obeyed and allowed themselves to be used by their commanders in 1965. 

Today, whether they like it or not, their names are again being used by the Indonesian authority to inspire other soldiers.

And that is truly sad.


The said...

At least those interred in Yasukuni are soldiers who died during wars.

The terrorists Usman and Harun were bombing civilians in an office building in an undeclared cowardly "war". It was Konfrontasi - not war.

El Lobo Loco said...

And dead soldiers (heroes or criminals) have to be buried somewhere.

Naming a ship after them, that's a whole different level of honour.

Here's another good article by an expert in military and defence matters:

He makes some very good points.