Sunday, 11 October 2015

Singapore Regional Foreign Policy: No Friends, No Credit.

No friends. This statement comes from Malaysian opposition (DAP) member of parliament Tony Pua.

[“He did Singapore no favour by cementing the perception of his country as the mercenary prick of Southeast Asia … And they wonder why they have no friends,” the Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker wrote on Facebook today. “I don’t care much if this was the view of some academic or armchair critic. But as the Ambassador-at-large, Mr Bilahari is a spokesman for Singapore.”] #1

No credit. This statement comes from Indonesian
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.

[“The (Indonesian) government is not closing ourselves off to assistance. But if we are assisted, the government does not want them (Singapore) to claim the credit. It is the government that is working hard to resolve (this smog disaster) … So we do not want it to reach the point of them claiming credit for it,” Mr Anung told CNN Indonesia yesterday (Oct 7).]#2

Our regional foreign policy results to a “No Friends, No Credit” situation and we are still quite proud of continuing doing that. Still remember what Lim Swee Say said during GE2015, “luckily, we are not Malaysians (as well not mainland Chinese)." This, perhaps, shows how naive and ignorance the PAP politicians and their advisers are.

This is the typical PAP response. When something happens, the fault is not Singapore, the fault is not PAP. It is other people’s faults. The recent SGH Hepatitis C case is another example. PM Lee’s standard operating procedure answer is:  

["Establish what happened, learn from the experience to improve and do better in future. And we also always have to be open and transparent with the public and with the patients about what has happened," said Mr Lee. "Because we must maintain public confidence, and trust in the healthcare system."] #3

If we look at what (then) Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in Singapore Press Club#4 about education in Malaysia, you can guess the thinking level of Singapore official understanding of Malaysian politics.  No wonder an activist misunderstood him. He seems not understanding the real reasons why pragmatic Malaysian Chinese parents (like Singaporeans) want to send their children to the better ‘quality’ Chinese independent schools. He may also not understand why the Malaysian government now grants licence to three privately run Chinese universities.  

As for Indonesian haze problem, he can only voice his concerns in his Facebook. Facebook is not an official channel.  It can be a place for reproduction of official statement. No wonder the Indonesian government takes it so lightly. However, the Indonesian side still worries about it. They are afraid of Singapore claiming credit by posting comments in Facebook. (What a laugh!)

The problem is our regional foreign policy. We don’t know the proper channel of approaching our neighbours. It is clear now the Indonesian side is looking for a multinational task force to tackle the haze problem. They want helps beyond Singapore and Malaysia (so that Singapore cannot claim credit?).
Do we really know why we have no friend and no credit in the region?  And yet we receive very high international reputation outside the region.   

Eddie Teo, Chairman of Public Service Commission, provides some lights to our “no friends, no credit” problem. After interviewing scholarship applicants, this is his observation:

[And if they know about current events, it is often about global rather than regional affairs. Those who are better off know London and Sydney well, but have never visited Yangon or Phnom Penh.

It is important for our young to know and understand the neighbourhood Singapore is in. Many influential and powerful people in Indonesia and Malaysia still view Singapore negatively. They regularly seek to remind us that we are a small country and should know our place in the pecking order among nations, and behave accordingly, instead of trying to punch above our weight. ]#5

Singapore ends up with no friends, no credit in the region. Can we just simply blame others for creating instability and problems and refuse to understand them?  






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