PM Lee: Singapore must know how to balance neighborliness with national interests

Photo: Facebook screengrab/ Lee Hsien Loong

At the Teck Ghee CCC Bursary and Edusave Awards 2019 ceremony on Sunday, January 6, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasized the importance of balancing between maintaining good relations with neighboring countries and looking after national interests.

While Singapore is friendly with its neighbors, issues and problematic matters will occasionally arise, The New Paper reports the President as saying.

He also reiterated that although Singapore itself is essentially peaceful, the world around it is complicated. And South East Asia in particular, he said, is a complex region to live in.

The Prime Minister said, “We need to know how to deal with our neighbours, from one country to another country, from one people to another people, to maintain good relations with them, to cooperate with them, but at the same time to look after our interests and stand up for Singapore.”

He also voiced out his desire for Singaporean students to comprehend the environment Singapore is in as they mature into adulthood, and for them to stand up for themselves and for each other as one nation.

“You would understand and you would learn that this is the world where we would have to stand up for ourselves, look after ourselves, and look after ourselves together as one people so that, small as we are, this little red dot can thrive and can prosper.”

PM Lee emphasized how important it is to have determination and resilience to get through difficulty, defend Singapore, and to thrive globally.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister’s statements about balancing neighborliness with national interest have come amidst maritime and airspace territorial disputes with the country’s nearest neighbors, Malaysia.

Discussions over this issue will be held today, January 8 (Tuesday) with the foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, respectively, meeting in Singapore.

On December 31, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean met with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Tun Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya.

Both PM Lee and Dr. Mahathir have expressed hopes that the bilateral issues will be resolved peacefully.

Here is the text of PM Lee’s speech at Teck Ghee ward on January 6.

Singapore is a peaceful place. But we live in a very complicated world. South-east Asia is quite a complicated place to be living in.

We are friends with our neighbours but we also, from time to time, have issues with our neighbours, problems come up. We need to know how to deal with our neighbours from one country to another country, from one people to another people, to maintain good relations with them, to cooperate with them but at the same time to look after our interests and stand up for Singapore.

We hope, as you study in school, as you grow up, as the boys go on to do national service, and the girls go out and work, you read the newspapers and watch the television and you see what is happening around us.

You would understand and you would learn that this is the world where we would have to stand up for ourselves, look after ourselves, and look after ourselves together as one people so that, small as we are, this little red dot can thrive and can prosper.

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