Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan has not been shy about being outspoken about his disdain for the opposition here in Singapore. He had made his views of them plainly known at a conference in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, where he suggested that opposition politicians are busy working against the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans (link: http://jeannettechongaruldoss.blogspot.sg/2015/12/bilahari-kausikan-loose-and-at-large.html). He did it again at the IPS Lecture yesterday (25 May).
These are some highlights of the Ambassador’s lecture.
HE ADMITTED THAT THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT DEVELOPED A FRAMEWORK OF SHARED ASSUMPTIONS TO ASK IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF NATIONAL INTERESTS
“Political debate over foreign policy is not necessarily a bad thing if it is conducted within, and leads to a domestic consensus on, the parameters of what is possible and not possible for a small city-state in Southeast Asia. In countries with long histories, partisan debates over foreign policy are generally conducted within such a framework of shared assumptions, often unconscious, on what ought to be in the fundamental interests of the country irrespective of which party holds power. With only 50 years of history, I am not sure we have a framework of shared assumptions about the national interest in Singapore. Perhaps we will develop one in time. But so far the manner in which the opposition has approached foreign policy does not inspire confidence that they have any concept of the fundamental national interest – that should hold irrespective of partisan ambition – or that they really understand Singapore’s place in our region and the world.”
BUT THAT DID NOT STOP BILAHARI FROM BLASTING WORKER’S PARTY MP FOR USING THE PARLIAMENTARY FRAMEWORK FOR ASKING SUCH QUESTIONS
“In 2013, Mr Pritam Singh of the Worker’s Party, who should have known better, asked a question in Parliament about our Middle East policies that could have stirred up the feelings of our Malay-Muslim ground against the government. He did not do his homework. It is not difficult to demonstrate that Singapore has been consistently even-handed in our relations with Israel and Palestine<…>why was the Workers’ Party asking questions about our Middle East policy? Was it to try and stir our Malay-Muslim ground against the government? Will Singapore benefit if Singaporean Muslims become alienated from the government or non-Muslim Singaporeans? The answers ought to be obvious.”
THE AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE ALSO THINKS THAT OPPOSITION PARTIES SHOULD NOT USE THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PRESS FOR RAISING IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF NATIONAL INTEREST
“The Straits Times published a letter from Dr Paul Tambyah in his capacity as a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP has advocated a reduction in our defence budget in favour of health-spending and Dr Tambyah was responding to a PAP MP’s parliamentary speech about this policy. One of the arguments that he advanced in support of the SDP’s position was so breathtakingly naive or so breathtakingly irresponsible<…>
I agree that Singapore should not get entangled in military conflicts if at all possible. But the purpose of a strong SAF is to deter; that is to say to prevent military conflicts from breaking out in the first place, and if deterrence should fail, to prevail. If the good doctor really thinks that being non-aligned is an adequate substitute for deterrence through a strong SAF, he ought to consult a doctor of another sort without delay: a psychiatrist.”
THE AMBASSADOR USED THE RESULTS OF THE GENERAL ELECTION AND THE BY-ELECTION TO SUGGEST THAT THE ELECTORATE THINKS LIKE HIM IN REJECTING THE OPPOSITION
“(On topic of how we are to afford more social spending?) The SDP and other opposition parties have never given any answer to this question that I have found convincing. The results of the last general election and the recently concluded by-election suggest that my scepticism is shared by many. Dr Tambyah’s boss in the SDP, Mr Chee Soon Juan, has written articles attacking our FTAs, as if the people of a small city-state could make a living by taking in one another’s laundry.”
The full transcript of his Lecture here: http://bit.ly/1OP6id7