Is being unable to “live and let live” counterproductive to the objectives of long term growth and success of the country?

The Tit for Tat furore continues between Singapore and Malaysia over the maritime dispute. A senior member of Prime Minister Mahathir’s party, Dr. Rais Hussain (Hussain) has warned Singapore that “Singapore will get “pain by a thousand cuts” for its position on the maritime dispute with its neighbour across the straits.

While I abhor threats of any kind, I do see some logic in the other things that Hussain has said. Hussain made the point that Singapore ought to “live and let live”. It was his opinion that Malaysia has helped Singapore in its journey to prosperity and that a “small gesture of kindness” here and there from Singapore to Malaysia would be appreciated. I acknowledge that geopolitics is never a simple matter and the government of Singapore probably has reasons for taking the actions that it has taken. That said, I do appreciate the sentiment behind Hussain’s words.

As a country, I have never actually had the impression that Singapore in any way, shape or form appreciates its closest neighbour. Despite our disagreements, we do rely on them for many things, starting with water to name a few. Is there any possibility that Malaysia is reacting in such a way to Singapore because it feels that it has been taken for granted for years?

According to Hussain, Singapore’s fighter jets have strayed into Malaysian skies a number of times without Malaysians taking much action. Perhaps where neighbours are concerned, there should be a more “live and let live” practice?

I am by no means a security expert and it may well be that I am totally wrong. But the phrase “live and let live” does hit a chord. Perhaps this is something that is not in the Peoples’ Action Party’s (PAP) DNA. As a party, the PAP have taken out many lawsuits against opposition politicians which have been viewed by some as petty and unnecessarily harsh. Is this an example of of not knowing how to “live and let live”? Is being unable to “live and let live” counterproductive to the objectives of long term growth and success of the country?

I note also that our talkative former ambassador at large, Bilahari Kausikan, (Kausikan) has taken it upon himself to rebut Hussain. Yet his rebuttals have in my opinion, totally missed the point. Hussain was talking about cooperation and good neighbourliness. Kausikan unfortunately chose to make it about criticisms of the Malaysian state. He said:

“They have not given up – and never will – trying to tame or domesticate Singapore because unless they do so, the intrinsic shortcomings of a system based on the dominance of a particular race will be highlighted, particularly since we do better with a different system…..But if we accept a subordinate position, can we prosper? Is existence by the leave and favour of some other country acceptable? That is what this character’s demands amount to.” Is what he says helpful to the situation? It seems to be a childish retort. This is not a schoolyard spat. It is a diplomatic issue. If Kausikan is the best proxy we have – I have grave concerns.