Friday, March 16, 2007

Singapore & Regional Animosity: media fiction or breathing fact?

In the recent months, and dating back as far as recent years, Singapore has both enjoyed and endured events after events of publicity, ranging from positive and progressive, to derogative and detrimental. From our “lack of neighborliness” as accused by some regional nations during the fiscal crisis of 1997/1998, to the purchasing of a telecommunications company, Singapore has been branded as a little red dot and nose-wax (for a lack of better translation). This does not undermine Singapore’s efforts in proving that we ARE capable of reaching out with a helping hand, from billion dollars loan during the same fiscal crisis mentioned above, to humanitarian aid during the 2005 Tsunami crisis. How do we distinguish ourselves as a regional economic leader without the baggage of being selfish and purely materialistic without morals? How do we change and rid the mentality of our regional neighbours of their negative sentiments they have in relation to our bilateral relationship?

As mentioned above, it is without doubt, that Singapore has enjoyed substantial economic and materialist gains in the past four decades, whether or not it should be credited to the ruling party, the Peoples Action Party (PAP), is a different issue altogether, despite my personal belief that their track-record has proven their claim for mandate, and has also serve as their foundational support from earlier generations. How they would evolve for our generation remains to be seen. However, our gain, gain, gain and profit, profit, profit trajectory has caused a slow but eventual build up of envy, jealousy and animosity in the region. Despite our upward growth, our neighbours enjoyed a less dramatic rise, something that is constantly viewed as wrong, because of geopolitical issues, historical issues, and most importantly, racial roots issues. Branded as “Jews of the East”, the large majority of Chinese in Singapore has placed herself in a region where this fact is constantly used as an anti-Singaporean slogan. How could we correlate and coexist better with our neighbours without stirring up too much domestic disapproval in their nations? While constant diplomatic initiatives has helped in tremendous ways, and geopolitical constraints a sore thorn in the majority of nations in our contemporary world, the lack of ability to unite like Europe has in recent years hindered both Singapore and her neighbours growth and development. While Europe has gone through centuries of warfare and diplomacy to attain their current non-perfected system of the European Union (EU), South East Asia has yet to reach that level, primarily due to the fact that our region experienced a colonial era (except Thailand), and that our independence were all gained thru various contrasting stages. With this issue considered, one of Singapore’s avenues for regional harmony lies in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). While the recent summit in Cebu, Philippines, has proved to be successful, there are still issues pertaining to security, equality in growth, and nations’ behaviour and unilateral decisions that would hinder cohesion.

There would never be a concrete one-off solution that could help regional harmony, and because of this undeniable and empirical fact, Singapore would basically have to maintain a high level of interaction and communication with her neighbours. Through diplomatic exchanges, military exercises, educational exchanges, and also trade agreements, Singapore could tap into transparent-communications as a form of anti-suspicion and cohesion building factor. While this may not be the most viable of ideas, (had it been, it would already have been thoroughly thought-out and implemented, without the need for a university student like me to talk about it,) it could serve as a stepping stone for future positive development.

Singaporeans must also remember one thing, that all of us who travel abroad, either on vacation purposes, work purposes or diplomatic purposes are ambassadors for the nation in every single way. While the media may not necessarily follow us around like high-ranking-officials, the grassroots offer the base and foundation. To further elaborate on this, Singaporeans must remember that in most neighbouring nations, regardless of governmental systems and institutions, the domestic people have a say and influence in their political arena, either thru People’s Power (like in the Philippines), or slightly more democratic styles like in Malaysia and Indonesia. Thus if we portray ourselves, from a grassroots perspective, as a certain type of people, the grassroots in our neighbouring nations would vote/choose a political party or personal(s) that would react in either a positive or negative way toward their dealings with Singapore.
Historically, we suffer less animosity compared to colonial powers that have ruled our neighbours (ie: the Dutch, the British, the Japanese, the Americans, the French), however, recent developments in the past few decades has given rise to another form of animosity, one possibly filled with envy and jealousy.

In high spirits and optimism, we must remember that each and every one of us, represents Singapore in some way or another, and because of our resource-scarce fact, the human being serving as the national fuel is vitally crucial for success, peace and growth.


DEe said...

do u really mean extinguish yrself? or distinguish yrself??

hong said...

*noted and rectified*

Appreciated Dee!