Konfrontasi (or Confrontation, 1963–1966) was a conflict started by Indonesia under the leadership of President Sukarno, who opposed the formation of the Federation of Malaysia consisting of Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah). The Indonesians carried out armed incursions and acts of subversion and sabotage, including bombings, to destabilise the federation. Singapore experienced a series of bombing incidents, which killed seven people and injured 50 others. The most serious incident was the MacDonald House bombing on 10 March 1965 in which three people were killed and 33 others injured.
The conflict eased in 1965 following internal political struggle in Indonesia. On 1 October 1965, several top army generals were kidnapped and murdered in an attempted coup purportedly carried out by the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) or the Indonesian Communist Party. The coup attempt was quickly crushed on the same day by the Indonesian army led by General Suharto. President Sukarno was consequently discredited because of his alleged association with the PKI, and he relinquished power to Suharto in March 1966. This marked the end of Konfrontasi, although the policy was not formally abandoned until 12 August 1966 when Indonesia signed a peace treaty with Malaysia.
Konfrontasi was a costly campaign for both Indonesia and Malaysia as the severance of economic links between the two countries and the increase in defence expenditures strained their economies. Between 1964 and 1965, Japan, Thailand and the Philippines had all tried to broker a peace conference but to no avail. It was not until April 1966, following a change in Indonesian leadership, that Jakarta began dropping hints to Malaysia that it was open for peace talks. The talks began in May 1966 and by June, both Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed in principle on a peace agreement. The peace treaty was ratified by Malaysia’s then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and then Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik in Jakarta on 12 August 1966, bringing an end to the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation.
There were three main provisions in the peace treaty. First, both countries agreed to cease hostilities. Second, both countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations immediately and establish diplomatic representations. Third, Malaysia agreed to give the people in Sabah and Sarawak the chance to reaffirm their position in the Malaysia Federation as soon as possible in a general election. The peace treaty was significant in paving the way for the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 8 August 1967. It also enabled Singapore – which had by then become an independent state – to establish formal diplomatic relations with Indonesia on 7 September 1967.
Singapore’s relations with Indonesia had suffered a temporary setback when the two Indonesian marines responsible for the MacDonald House bombing were hanged on 17 October 1968 after being convicted on murder charges. On the day of the hanging, Indonesian youths ransacked the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta. Bilateral ties between both countries were only restored in May 1973 when then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Jakarta’s Kalibata National Heroes Cemetery and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines during a state visit.
1. Subandrio's speech direct attack: Tengku. (1963, January 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Mackie, J. A. C. (1974). Konfrontasi: The Indonesia-Malaysia dispute, 1963–1966 (p. 179). Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 327.5950598 MAC.
2. Terror bomb kills 2 girls at bank. (1965, March 11). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Confrontation ends. (1966, August 12). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; Dewi Fortuna Anwar. (1994). Indonesia in ASEAN: Foreign policy and regionalism (pp. 30–31). New York St Martin’s Press; Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no: RSING 327.598059 ANW.
4. The Straits Times, 12 Aug 1966, p. 1.
5. 18-strong team for Bangkok. (1964, February 4). The Straits Times, p. 1; Talking of peace. (1965, February 25). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Envoy: The door is still open for talks. (1966, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Willing to talk peace – if they want to: Razak. (1966, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; Malik: The first step to a settlement. (1966, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; All set for the peace talks. (1966, May 28). The Straits Times, p. 24; A pact for peace. (1966, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 8; Abisheganaden, F. (1966, June 2). It's peace. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The Straits Times, 12 Aug 1966, p. 1.
9. The Straits Times, 12 Aug 1966, p. 1.
10. The Straits Times, 12 Aug 1966, p. 1.
11. The Asean aims: First 7-point accord signed. (1967, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Now it's ties with S'pore. (1967, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Singapore Press Holdings Limited. (2015). The MacDonald House bombing. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/macdonald-house-bombing; Lee, K. C. (1983). An ambassador’s journey (pp. 218–219). Singapore: Times Book International. Call no.: RSING 327.20924 LEE.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.