Retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan has been known to speak his mind, and he’s weighed in several times on the recent ongoing tensions between Malaysia and Singapore over maritime disputes.
On December 10, Bilahari shared an old video clip of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kwan Yew, wherein the nation’s first Prime Minister reminded everyone of the country’s vulnerabilities in the presence of neighbors who may not have Singapore’s best interests in mind, as well as Singapore’s readiness to defend itself.
LKY says at one point in the video,
“We are not vulnerable? They can besiege you. You’ll be dead. Your sea lanes are cut off and your business comes to a halt. What is our reply? Security Council, plus defense capabilities of our own, plus the Security Framework Agreement with the Americans.”
It seems as though Bilahari feels that this reminder is needful and timely, and the post has gotten a number of shares on Facebook.
Perhaps a reminder like this is necessary, and LKY ends the video with a steely-eyed expression on his face, as he says, “We’ve got friendly neighbours? Grow up.”
Here is the full text of what LKY said in the video:
“We have not got neighbors who want to see us prosper. We are an upstart in this region, because we have survived for so long, and I believe can survive given the international environment provided we have a strong system that enables us to maximize our chances.
Are we not vulnerable?
If we’re not vulnerable, why do we spend 5 to 6 percent of GDP (on defense) year after year? Are we mad? This is a frugal government, you know.
We dug a deep tunnel for the sewers at the cost of $3.65 billion in order to use the sewage water for Newater, to be independent.
We are not vulnerable? They can besiege you. You’ll be dead. Your sea lanes are cut off and your business comes to a halt. What is our reply? Security Council, plus defense capabilities of our own, plus the Security Framework Agreement with the Americans.
They stopped sand. Why? To conscribe us. As Mahathir (former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad) says, ‘Even at their present size they are trouble, you let them grow some more they will be more trouble’. We’ve got friendly neighbours? Grow up.”
On December 4, shortly after bilateral relations were beginning to get heated, Bilahari wrote on a Facebook post, “It is not an accident that so many old bilateral issues — water, bridge, FIR and maritime boundaries — have resurfaced after the change of government. The new governing coalition is intrinsically unstable and held together by a 93-year-old man. Political uncertainty in Malaysia inevitably leads to Singapore being used as a bogeyman to hold things together. So wish the good doctor good health and long-life: it may well be worse without him.”
Quite understandably, many Malaysians were not pleased with Bilahari’s post.
On Sunday, Bilahari responded on Facebook again to comments from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Supreme Council member Rais Hussin, who said, among other comments, that “there is nothing that Singapore can gain by hardening its stance against Malaysia” in the maritime dispute.
Bilahari wrote, “Very typical — what they expect is subordination of our interests to their interests.
They have not given up, and never will, trying to tame or domesticate (menjinakan) Singapore, because unless they do so, the intrinsic short-comings 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 favor of some other country acceptable? That is what this character’s demands amount to.
This is the essential reason why a small country should never behave as a small country, that is behave in a way bigger neighbors demand.”