Local CEO Devadas Krishnadas has asserted that Oxford University student Darrion Mohan who took on Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at a forum last Friday was not the right representative to hold up Singapore’s position and that the Oxford Union where the exchange took place is not the right forum for such a purpose.
A video went viral last week showing an exchange between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Singaporean Darrion Mohan, who is a second-year history and politics undergraduate at Oxford University. According to the national broadsheet, Darrion used to intern at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs between January and March 2017.
In the video, Darrion poses a series of questions to Dr Mahathir on the relations between Singapore and Malaysia. Questioning Dr Mahathir about issues like the maritime and airspace disputes, the SG-KL high-speed rail project, and Malaysia’s calls to revise water supply prices, the Singapore student argued:
“Would you not agree actions like this contribute to the perception that your government is pugnacious, that your government acts in bad faith and that your government… wants a return to the days of confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric?”
Dr Mahathir chose to debate with Darrion on the issue of the 1962 Water Agreement and said that the deal was unfair to Malaysia. The exchange between the PM and the student quickly went viral with over 340,000 views, with many Singaporeans showering praise upon Darrion for his bravery and intellect to champion Singapore’s position at the forum.
Some Singaporeans, however, disagree and felt that this was not the right way to handle tensions between the two nations. One netizen, Facebook user Peter Koh asked: “Why you so kaypoh (Hokkien for busybody)? Leave it to the governments to settle lah.”
Another Facebook user, Terence Charles Darby, said: “When a dispute arises between neighbours, often raising voices at each other can only worsen the situation. Very often, a winning argument need not be had through an aggressive attitude.”
The chief executive of consultancy firm, Future-Moves Group, Mr Devadas Krishnadas shares similar views. Mr Devadas has formerly worked at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He wrote on his LinkedIn page today that he felt that Dr Mahathir came off looking like he had a moral case while the student “personified exactly what Singapore is often accused of being – arrogant, self regarding, relentlessly logical of its position but simultaneously careless of those of others and a shameless profiteer of its neighbours resources.”
Mr Devadas wrote: “Many Singaporeans are cheering this young man for challenging Dr M. I am not one of them. First, the Oxford Union is a fora inconsequential to settling the bilateral dispute.
“Second, ‘Sand bagging’ Dr M when there is nothing to be gained is youthful brogaddacio not intelligence.
“Third, by referencing the utterly discredited and defeated Najib Razak, the young man demonstrated his naivete of which the wily Dr M took immediate advantage.
“Fourth, by offering Dr M a menu of issues to respond to rather than a laser focus on one item, he allowed Dr M, a political giant, to pick and choose his battleground and he of course, chose the water agreement.
“Fifth, be conceding that the agreement is unfair to Malaysia the young man lost whatever moral ground he had.
“The upshot is that Dr M came off looking Statesman like and having a moral case while the ‘brave’ young man personified exactly what Singapore is often accused of being – arrogant, self regarding, relentlessly logical of its position but simultaneously careless of those of others and a shameless profiteer of its neighbours resources.
“There are right fora, right ways and right representatives to hold up Singapore’s position. This fora, this method and he are none of these.”
Darrion, in the meantime, has said that he had been looking forward to Dr Mahathir’s talk at the Oxford Union and that he “thought that it would be interesting to get Dr M’s views.”
He added in an interview with the national broadsheet: “The norm is to ask a single question, with perhaps one or two follow-up questions. A back-and-forth exchange like the one I had with Dr M is rare.”