by Augustine Low
It has been said time and again that Singapore punches above its weight.
But recent events have shown that Singapore’s regional influence and soft power (never mind global influence) have taken a hit.
This week, it was revealed that Hong Kong had previously categorically rejected a Singapore request for the arrest and extradition of Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman linked to the IMDB scandal.
You may recall, too, that Thailand, another China-friendly country, rejected Singapore’s request to extradite Holland Village bank robber David James Roach. Thailand’s Attorney-General Office said the Singapore request was denied “because we are not in a position to consider it.”
There was also the long-drawn saga of the seizure of nine SAF armoured vehicles in Hong Kong en route from Taiwan. Many saw it as China teaching Singapore a lesson, venting its displeasure with the Lion City’s rule of law stance on the South China Sea disputes.
So, it could all be due to the unseen hand of China at work.
It could also be that diplomat Kishore Mabubani, founding dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was right after all when he said last year that “small states must always behave like small states.”
Kishore antagonised the establishment because he lamented that “sadly, we will probably never again have another globally respected statesman like Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) . . . we should change our behaviour significantly.”
For his remarks, Kishore bore the brunt of the collective force of K Shanmugam, Bilahari Kausikan and Ong Keng Yong who all came down hard on him. He has since left the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and is by all accounts struck off the good books of the establishment.
Perhaps Kishore’s remarks struck too close to home for comfort, and the truth hurts.
Perhaps China is not to be trifled with, and Singapore is reminded time and again to mind its manners and not meddle when meddling is not called for.
Whatever the reasons, Singapore’s leaders must not get carried away by constantly asserting with pride and ego that we are a country that punches above its weight.
With humility and modesty, we might garner greater support and cooperation from our neighbours.