I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Singapore’s sovereignty ‘never a given'”.

Ambassador-at-large Mr Bilahari Kausikan reportedly said: the 193 countries that make up the UN were sovereign, but beyond their “one seat, one vote and one flag” there, some were either being yanked every >which way by major global powers or rent asunder by internal conflicts. Singapore was represented under Malaysian sovereignty in the UN in 1963. It can be said that Malaysia-Singapore had already been rent asunder by internal conflicts in 1965. We turned out better off without Malaysia. Hence, being rent asunder due to internal conflicts isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The renting asunder of USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were all for the better, not for the worse. Many former USSR states were held against their wishes in a union they did not want to be a part of.

Conversely, being merged together isn’t necessarily a good thing. An ex-colleague once implored to me: “what if we got a lousy government which did a silly thing like merge us into Malaysia?” I told her that silly thing actually happened before and it was Lee Kuan Yew’s lousy government which did just that. She didn’t even know we were once part of Malaysia even though she is older than me. This is the kind of “well-informed” Singaporean going to the polls every 5 years.

Of the 193 UN countries, there are actually not that many that have bee so-called “yanked by major powers” or rent asunder by internal conflicts. So the correct lesson from Mr Kausikan’s observations should be that while Singapore’s sovereignty is not a given, the probability of us being yanked by major powers or rent asunder by internal conflicts is not high while the probability of us remaining sovereign is high.

Mr Bilahari Kausikan reportedly said: Singaporeans lived in a “complicated and dangerous region” …

This contradicts what Minister Shanmugam said: Modern East Asia, including Southeast Asia is what it is today because of the crucial role the United States played in underwriting security in Asia-Pacific. The U.S. provided security and stability that helped to stem the tide of communism, the 7th Fleet kept the ceilings open. The U.S. generously opened its markets to the region, and that sustained economic growth and prosperity of many Asian countries. In turn, that created conditions that allowed East Asia, beginning with Japan, to seize opportunity to uplift their people’s lives, and China is a most recent example of that. Success of countries in the region created a dynamism which has also created new challenges and opportunities, and let me add … the U.S. did all of it.

[The Brookings Institution, Southeast Asia and the United States: remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam, 22 Sept 2014]

If we are indeed living in a dangerous region, where do investors find the confidence to invest so much in Singapore?

It is precisely because the US has been underwriting the security of Asia Pacific that the region is not as dangerous as Mr Kausikan claims it to be and is one of the reasons why Singapore continues to attract so much foreign investment.

A.S.S. Contributor

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