There seem to be 2 types of communication between the Singapore establishment and the Malaysian government. There are the face to face meetings and then there is the sending of messages through the media. Take for instance the High Speed Rail project – its cancellation was announced to the media by Mahathir before any communication was made between official channels. Indeed, Mahathir’s media statement of rejection appeared to have caught authorities in Singapore by surprise.
Then you have the water tit for tat where each side played the media to score points. Not bad for a journalist I suppose but for the authorities, what does it all mean? There is the direct communication and there is the “read between the lines” messages. So the game begins as somewhere between the official discussions and the media write ups lies the true heart of the topic.
Is it a surprise that the government is now announcing its military prowess? Notice that all this macho talk ramped up after Mahathir retook the helm across the causeway. What with the announcement of the replacement of our fighter jets and then the statement by Minister Ng Eng Hen that the next generation of the SAF will be “faster, heavier and deadlier” at a time when Mahathir is flexing his renewed muscles. Curious timing to be “bigging up” our military might isn’t it? Perhaps this is the beginning of our very own causeway arms race.
But then Ng attempts to deflect from the veiled threats of our military might by saying that it is unnecessary “to respond to their every articulation” as well as not to “jump up and down when their styles and priorities change”. Funny that – isn’t he the one that is reacting by hyping up our military strength?
Well, what do I know about the world of political diplomacy? But I do make the observations and am pointing them out. Whatever about statecraft, I hope the government is mindful of the long term effects of spending big on a defense system that may never be used. Honestly, what can tanks and planes do when all Malaysia has to do is to shut off its water? Perhaps money might be better spent on talks and activites to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Or is it that both states need to foster this love hate relationship in order to deflect from its own problems by painting the other as the bogeyman?
If building up our SAF is what the government plans to do, I can only hope that the government invests in better protection of our men serving National Service. We don’t need any more senseless and preventable deaths just to show our neighbour up.