We should try our best to resolve our differences calmly and peacefully, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the United Nations (UN) event on Tuesday (24 September).
The event, Leadership Matters – Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World, was hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.
In his speech, PM Lee said that mutual understanding, tolerance and respect can be built only when people start to appreciate the views of others, especially in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.
He said, “Differences are more easily amplified, and people more readily take offence. Tensions and conflicts are prevalent not just between countries, races and religions, but also within them.”
The premier called on other countries to contribute to global efforts, as Singapore has, in promoting respect and mutual understanding.
Noting that there is much world leaders can learn from Gandhi’s ideals and ideas, PM Lee said: “If we take Gandhi’s message to heart, then we must try our best to resolve differences calmly and peacefully, appreciating the views of the other side, and without inflaming passions or hardening attitudes.”
“In so doing, we will build mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for one another,” he added.
However, the Prime Minister’s comments have drawn scepticism from local netizens who are wondering why Mr Lee would talk about “resolving differences calmly and peacefully” when he has a propensity for suing those who disagree with him.
Specifically, comments on Facebook pages of Today, Channel NewsAsia, and Straits Times, called out the PM for the irony in his message and for being a “hypocrite”. One person demanded that Mr Lee “walk the talk”, while another asked him to apply that same lesson to his “family squabble”.
Another person cheekily commented a ‘translation’ of the PM’s message which was to do as he says, not as he does:
PM Lee is currently pursuing a civil suit against blogger Leong Sze Hian for defamation over an article the latter shared on Facebook which alleged that the Prime Minister had helped former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in laundering money related to the Malaysian 1MDB scandal.
The Prime Minister also initiated two more defamation suits against TOC Editor Terry Xu for two separate articles. One of the suits was over an article published on August 15 which the PM says contained “statements that are false and baseless and were calculated to disparage and impugn PM Lee as well as his office as the Prime Minister”.
An earlier defamation suit was filed in December 2018 against Terry for a letter which was published by TOC on its website which alleged that there was “corruption at the highest echelons” of Singapore.