As neighbors living in close proximity, we do have our differences once in a while. It’s akin to the ups and downs in an exhilarating roller coaster ride as we turn the wheel of life together. Just take a deep look at the pages of history. Even as close neighbors trade with each other for economic gains and interact for mutual benefits; differences arise from time to time leading to squabbles and disputes. If they got out of hand, may even lead to border skirmishes escalating to a full blown military confrontation. They happened throughout history and we are not immune to such imponderables. The on-going bitter Kashmir territorial dispute between Pakistan and India, the un-resolved PRC & ROC status quo and the North and South Koreans stalemate are some notable ones happening right in front of our eyes in recent times.
The recent diplomatic spat between us – a tiny red dot and that huge giant land mass of Indonesia is not so bad if we compare it to those examples quoted. As a matter of fact, we are still within the Asean family. Remember the many bitter border issues such as the most recent Thai and Cambodia ancient temple border dispute with military skirmishes which was later resolved when other Asean nations intervened. Indonesia’s decision to name a navy ship after two marines who bombed an Orchard Road building in 1965 which led to civilians being killed during the confrontation period is the latest diplomatic row within the Asean nations.
History is always interpreted differently by different people. It depends on which angle you are looking at. The Indonesians view the 2 dead soldiers as national heroes when they carried out their mission paying with their lives as the ultimate sacrifice. They were merely carrying out orders during that turbulent period. Whereas, we view it differently cuz they targeted civilians. It is universally accepted that professionals do not target civilians at all. Nevertheless, we thought that that episode was over when our leader paid his respects by scattering flower petals on their graves. Why then it re-surfaced again after more than 50 years with the past unpleasant memories back to haunt us when it’s nearly forgotten?
As a responsible government, our leaders did the right thing to register our protest to the Indonesians. If we just keep quiet and let it pass, they would be thinking that we are afraid to raise our meek voice. They may think that we could be bullied easily since we are just a tiny red dot. A measured logical protest to remind them subtly of their past bullying tactics where they simply despatched their soldiers into our country to cause massive damages and harm to our civilians. Is there any difference to cold blooded terrorists? It is a shame on them being the biggest country in this part of the world. Do they want to be another North Korea – a pariah in the international community of nations? We may be small but there are even more smaller nations than us. They look up to us on how we handle such incidents to much bigger countries.
“Let Singapore keep shrieking, like a chicken beaten by a stick.” – said Indonesia.
Despite this unhappy episode in our history, we still play our part as a responsible neighbor whenever disasters struck them. We never hesitated to assist them with aid and other assistance to help victims of natural disasters in their country. Yes, we did send in our troops there. But we did it on humanitarian grounds providing massive relief supplies to their outlaying provinces when we are so near and their central government is so far away. These are kind deeds that they should consider when they did what they did leading to the latest diplomatic row. It seems that they have short memory to have easily forgotten such compassion from us?
Of course, we can’t go beyond mere protests against their unilateral actions. But at least we did voice out our unhappiness even though we may be tiny. It reflects on their commitment and friendliness where our future dealings with them will depend upon. Why risk our generosity and make an enemy out of us when there is so much to gain than lose? Our future PM hopes that the new generation of Indonesian leaders would display “similar wisdom and leadership to put the bilateral ties foremost in all that we do”, like their predecessors. I think that’s a wise statement.
I view this incident as a blessing in disguise. To those calling for the reduction of NS and the reduction on defense spending, I say this is a wake up call. Precisely because we are such a tiny red dot in this part of unfriendly neighborhood that we need to eat less, spend less, enjoy less in other areas and to skrimp or to go hungry if need be so that we could invest heavily in our defense infrastructure. For without a powerful deadly Air Force, we will live forever without any sense of human dignity and self-respect under their huge overbearing intimidating shadows!
We may be a tiny red dot but we are no push over. We can never change our geographical size nor shift away from this part of the neighborhood, but we are the world’s hottest chili padi. Devour at your own perils!