Saturday, November 26, 2005

Australian Leaders No Better Than Habibie

Every Singaporean remembers former Indonesian president Habibie’s famous insult when he referred to Singapore as a ‘little red dot’.

“You are nothing, we don’t give a damn about you and we don’t need you as a friend” – is in fact what he was saying.

Now of course the Australian leaders are much more civilized than that. They repeatedly talked about how much they value Singapore’s friendship. But as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. Australian leaders’ actions in recently demonstrate that they are no better than Habibie.

Take the Michael McCrea incident for example. Remember this guy? He was suspected of murdering his driver, Kho Nai Guan, and the driver's girlfriend, Lan Ya Ming in 2002. He escaped to Britain and then to Australia where he confessed to the crime. Because the Australians do not believe in the death penalty, they refused to extradite him to Singapore. In the end, we had to give the Australians an assurance that he would not be executed even if he was found guilty before they would release him to Singapore.

As a Singaporean, aren’t you outraged by such an arrogant attitude. The crime was committed here in Singapore. Shouldn’t our laws take precedence? By insisting that we give in to their demands, doesn’t it undermine our own laws. Future murderers will simply run and hide in Australia. No, we don’t care. This is our policy. We cannot change for a little red like you.

Now we have the Nguyen Tuong Van incident. This convicted drug trafficker is sentenced to die soon. And the Australian government applies non-stop pressure on us to bend our laws to spare him from the gallows; knowing full well that this goes completely against our stated stand on such matters (Please see excerpt of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s 2004 National Day Rally Speech below).

Don’t you see a double standard being applied when you compare the two cases. You are just a little red dot. We don’t give a damn about your laws. We are civilized people. Your laws are barbaric. You must bend to our demands.

Maybe Dr Mahathir was right after all; “It's very difficult to get along with deputy sheriffs.”

Excerpt of PM Lee’s 2004 National Day Rally Speech

The one thing that will not change is our approach to foreign relations. We seek to be friends with all countries, especially our immediate neighbours and the major powers. We pursue win-win co-operation with all countries which are willing to cooperate with us. But that does not mean that we can always accommodate the views or positions of other countries. When our vital interests are at stake, we must quietly stand our ground. As Dr Habibie said, Singapore is a little red dot. If we don't defend our interests, who will?

This approach has earned us respect internationally, and a network of good relations with many countries around the world.

From time to time we are put to the test. As a small country, we cannot afford to flinch. When Michael Fay was sentenced to caning for vandalism, President Bill Clinton wrote on his behalf, but we could not remit the sentence to cane. People in Asia noted our stand. When Prime Minister Mahathir pressured us to change the Water Agreements, we stood firmly by our legal rights. We gave a full public explanation of the negotiations with Malaysia, and why we were justified in international law and were prepared to go to any international tribunal.

Footnote: Please don’t misunderstand me. This article is about foreign relations. It’s not about the death penalty. Personally, I don’t support the death penalty except for the crime of murder.

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” - Genesis 9:6

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