SINGAPORE: Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh has pointed out factual errors in the second volume of former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo’s ‘Musings by George Yeo’ series.
In a Facebook post published last week (9 Mar), Prof Koh highlighted three inaccuracies. First, he noted that the book states that “only half the world condemns Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.”
Prof Koh said: “The truth is that 141 members of the UN, out of 193 members, voted to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of the 10 ASEAN countries, 8 voted with the majority.”
He also noted that the book made another incorrect statement when it said that the Philippines took its disputes with China, in the South China Sea, to the International Tribunal for the law of the Sea. The disputes were actually referred to arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, not the International Tribunal.
He added that the book’s claim that “judges were appointed on China’s behalf” is inaccurate and clarified: “When China refused to participate in the arbitration, the President of ITLOS was required by UNCLOS, to appoint one judge out of the five members of arbitral tribunal, to represent China. The President appointed a Polish judge from ITLOS, to represent China.”
Despite these issues, Prof Koh showered praise upon the book as a whole and Mr Yeo. Revealing that the “wonderful” book moved him to tears, he said of Mr Yeo: “There are very few people whose high cognitive intelligence is matched by an equally high emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence. His broad knowledge of the world and his global network of friends are truly impressive.”
While Prof Koh expressed hope that the mistakes he pointed out will be corrected in the future edition of the book, he reiterated his admiration for Mr Yeo, his “brilliant friend and mentor.”
There appears to be no love lost between the pair. Mr Yeo responded to Prof Koh and thanked him for his kind words. Noting that the former diplomat’s longstanding friendship and support are very precious to both his wife and himself, Mr Yeo thanked Prof Koh for the corrections on the UNCLOS and promised to make the amendments in future editions of his book.
As for Prof Koh’s point on half the world not condemning Russia, Mr Yeo clarified that he was referring to the BRICS countries who make up roughly half the world’s population. He added, “I should have been clearer.”
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