By: Chua Chin Leng
Bloomberg News reported on 1 Dec some comments by Bilahari Kausikan on the recent spat between China and Singapore.
“This is not the first time Singapore ships equipment from Taiwan through Hong Kong,” said Bilahari Kausikan, an ambassador-at-large for Singapore. The fact this particular consignment was picked up shows China wants to “send a signal not only to us, but to all” Southeast Asian nations. China’s long-term strategy is to turn Singapore into an ally and “mouthpiece” for its positions, he said.
I am not sure whether Bilahari said the above in the capacity of an ambassador or as an ordinary citizen. The comments are likely to irk China again and may draw some flakes. At this point in time, with the heat still on, Singapore officials especially diplomats and ambassadors should be more careful in what they said. Maybe there is already an official position to take.
There are two schools of thought on this. The more garang and brave group that could not understand the meaning of ‘牛存不示虎’, literary translated as little calf did not know what is a tiger, would be egging the govt to be strong, to stand up, look China into the eyes, to tell China we cannot be bullied.
The more mature and sensible group would recommend not to aggravate the situation by talking cock, oops, I mean talking tough. Talk reasons in a reasonable and respectful manner and try to resolve the issue as amicably as possible. But looking at the tense situation, this is unlikely.
If Bilahari is speaking in his capacity as an ambassador, it is likely that this is an official position and his choice of words was precise and intended. If he is speaking in his private capacity, then he can talk all the cock he wants and Vivian would just say in Parliament when questioned that he need not have to waste his time discussing about what a private citizen said.
Would China send a note to the MFA demanding an explanation and would Vivian said, stuff it? Whichever, these comments are not helpful except to prove that Singapore got balls to stand up to China, to punch above its weight. The consequences for such bravado would be for the people to bear.
There is a time and place to be tough and principled. There are times when talking cock would look silly and incur strong reactions. Without good men in charge, the lack of wisdom is glaring.