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Singapore-Malaysia dispute: Beware of overkill and too many cooks spoiling the broth

From the Malaysian side, we know who’s bossing it and calling the shots: the wily old fox Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

From the Singapore side, we have no clue who’s leading the charge. The Prime Minister has stayed silent. Is it Foreign Affairs? Home Affairs? Transport? Defence?

What we do know is that half the cabinet have chimed in with strongly worded statements and soundbites: Vivian Balakrishnan, Khaw Boon Wan, Ng Eng Hen, Chan Chun Sing, Heng Swee Keat, Masagos Zulkifli and Grace Fu.

We know also that K Shanmugam and the Attorney-General have met their Malaysian counterparts. Even the Prime Minister’s wife Ho Ching, who is officially not in government service, has waded in, telling a Malaysian politician to “Chill, man.”

And Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has posted a video explaining the situation, accompanied by a lengthy account and a call to keep the SAF and Home Team in prayers. That sounds rather ominous, considering that you usually pray for men and uniform in uniform only when they are about to go to war.

So we are aware of the seriousness of the maritime dispute and tensions with Malaysia, because the entire Singapore government machinery is fully engaged and Singaporeans are even urged to pray.

The problem is, when so many people are trying to get a word in, who do Singaporeans listen to? Will too many cooks spoil the broth?

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir seems to take it all in stride, happy to give the Singapore side the runaround. When asked whether Malaysian government vessels will be withdrawn from the disputed maritime zone, he replied cheekily: “At the moment, because there is no decision, the vessels are there.”

You can imagine him saying those words with a wink.

But Ho Ching did say “Chill, man.”

So why not chill and do something more unorthodox then? Like blasting National Day songs in the direction of the Malaysian vessels 24 hours a day. Give them the works, especially the ones that Singaporeans sing once a year with gusto: Count On Me, Singapore; One People, One Nation, One Singapore; We Are Singapore.