MacDonald House bombing occurs


The bombing of the 10-storey Hongkong and Shanghai Bank building, also known as MacDonald House, was one of the attacks carried out by Indonesian saboteurs against Singapore during the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation (or Konfrontasi, 1963–1966).[1] It was the deadliest of at least 42 bomb incidents which occurred during Konfrontasi, leaving three people dead and 33 others injured.[2] The three casualties were Elizabeth Suzie Choo Kway Hoi, private secretary to the manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank; assistant secretary Juliet Goh Hwee Kuang; and Mohammed Yasin bin Kesit, a driver for the Malaya Borneo Building Society. Mohammed Yasin was in a coma for three days before succumbing to his injuries.[3]

The bomb, which exploded at 3.07 pm on 10 March 1965, was so powerful that it blasted the floors and inner walls of the first four floors of the building: it ripped out lift doors; destroyed the connecting staircase between the first and mezzanine floors; and shattered the windows in the building, as well as those in the adjacent and opposite buildings.[4] The windscreens of most of the vehicles parked across the road were also shattered. The explosives had been planted near the lift at the mezzanine floor by two Indonesian marines, Osman bin Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun bin Said.[5]

Three days later, Osman and Harun were rescued by a fisherman after the vessel they had been travelling in capsized off Singapore. They were heading back to Indonesia after their mission. Finding them suspicious, the fisherman handed them over to the Police Coast Guard.[6] They were arrested and charged in court and sentenced to death on 20 October 1965.[7] On 17 October 1968, Osman and Harun were hung at Changi Prison after their appeals were turned down.[8]On the day of the execution, mobs ransacked the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta. The bodies of the executed marines were brought back to Indonesia and buried at the Kalibata National Heroes Cemetery with full military honours.[9]

Relations between Singapore and Indonesia suffered a temporary setback after the execution of Osman and Harun. During a state visit to Indonesia in May 1973, then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines as “a diplomatic gesture that addressed ‘Javanese beliefs in souls and clear conscience’”. Lee agreed to do so upon the advice of then Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy, who thought that it would be “the key to an improvement in relations because the Indonesian generals placed great store by this gesture”.[10] The gesture won over many Indonesian hearts and marked the restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries.[11]

1. Terror bomb kills 2 girls at bank. (1965, March 11). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Record of the wreckers: It is a story of shame. (1965, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 16.  Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. The Straits Times, 11 Mar 1965, p. 1; Bomb victim no. 3 dies of wounds. (1965, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The Straits Times, 11 Mar 1965, p. 1; Blast damage 9 floors up. (1965, March 12). The Straits Times, p. 6; Warning follows library bomb scare. (1965, March 12). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. MacDonald House blast: Two for trial. (1965, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nirmala, M. (2014, February 13). MacDonald House attack still strikes home in S'pore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
6. Indons’ statements ruled admissible. (1965, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 10.  Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Death for Indon bombers. (1965, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. S’pore govt gives reasons for ‘no’ to pleas for mercy. (1968, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Malik defies mob. (1968, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 1.  Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lee, K. Y. (2000). From third world to first: The Singapore story, 1965­–2000: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (p. 300). Singapore: Times Editions: Singapore Press Holdings. Call no.: RSING 959.57092 LEE-[HIS].
11. Lee, K. C. (1983). An ambassador’s journey (pp. 218­­­–219). Singapore: Times Books International. Call no.: RSING 327.20924 LEE.

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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.