Tuesday 11 March 2014

Memorial service for MacDonald House bombing

250 mark MacDonald House tragedy
Memorial service said to be first of its kind for 1965 bombing victims
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2014

A PART of Ms Rusmah Mohammed Yasin died with her father when he lost his life in the MacDonald House bombing.

Mr Mohammed Yasin Kesit was one of three victims killed by the blast 49 years ago - the worst attack in Singapore during Konfrontasi, the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation which lasted from 1963 to 1966.

The 60-year-old said she initially thought her friend was joking when he told her about the incident, before the news sunk in: "I feel half of my soul has gone with my father."

Ms Rusmah and her brother, Mr Rapii Mohamed Yasin, were among 250 people who attended a memorial service in front of MacDonald House yesterday.

It is believed to be the first of its kind to mark the MacDonald House tragedy and was organised by the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League (SAFVL) for victims of the bombing and fallen soldiers of Konfrontasi. Relatives of the victims shed tears as they laid flowers at the memorial.

SAFVL president Brigadier- General (NS) Winston Toh said: "Though this significant event happened five decades ago, we as Singaporeans must never forget this part of our nation's history."

The ceremony took place several weeks after Indonesia named a new warship after Indonesian saboteurs executed in Singapore for the bombing. The decision revived painful memories of the incident, which also injured at least 33 people.

Survivors also attended the service, along with 40 veterans.

The SAFVL has petitioned the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to find suitable ways to remember the victims of Konfrontasi and educate younger generations about it.

In a letter to BG (NS) Toh, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he strongly supported the SAFVL's petition.

Speaking at the memorial, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong backed the petition and said his ministry will work with groups like the SAFVL and schools to "do more to remember our past and celebrate our heroes".

Many young Singaporeans do not even know about Konfrontasi, Mr Wong noted - partly because that period of Singapore's history was not taught in schools until the mid-1980s as events were thought to be too recent.

"Since then, we have begun teaching our students the Singapore story," he added. "But we need to do more to bring that story alive, not only to the young but also the general public."

Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Daljeet Singh placed a wreath outside MacDonald House yesterday to commemorate fellow veterans. The 73-year-old saw combat during Konfrontasi as a young commander with the 2nd Battalion of the Singapore Infantry Regiment.

He recalled an ambush in 1964 in South Johor that killed nine soldiers from another platoon. It took eight weeks of fighting before the 60 enemy soldiers were rounded up or killed, he said.

He said: "We were doing our duty, but it's very, very sad when innocent civilians get killed by terrorists. Singapore has done a good thing to remember them."

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