When Minister Ng revealed on his Facebook account that he would have some announcement in Parliament on the 2 month long Terrex saga, I looked forward to some progress or at least a constructive update. Instead, the whole country was treated a comedy stand up routine by him in Parliament. One does not know whether to cry or laugh at his statement, and the fact that he actually thinks that the public will buy it and that his statement passes for even a modicum of muster.
Lesson # 1
The PAP has no clue. No clue whatsoever. The concept of international diplomacy is apparent foreign to them. Minister Ng is still vigorously working the legal angle when the whole world can see that it’s a political matter. The naivete of the PAP is astounding. He states that the Govt. was advised by its lawyers that the seizure was illegal and violated even Hong Kong’s law. Does he seriously expect any lawyers employed by the Govt. to say anything else? Hiring your own lawyer to tell you that you are right and that Hong Kong is wrong is akin to masturbation. Now, if Minister Ng has a legal opinion from a world court like the international court of justice in The Hague, or from leading legal eagles in Hong Kong and China, then that would be different. But he does not have said endorsements nor was he able to get them. In fact, in the 2 months since the seizures, no independent 3rd party legal entity has denounced the seizures as illegal. That tells what the Govt’s lawyers’ opinions are worth. You will notice in Minister Ng’s speech that there is no contingency plan at all. There is mention of the legal aspect and there is mention of the Hong Kong authorities doing their investigations. But what if it goes against Singapore? What is Ng’s back up plan in case Hong Kong does not return them? It seems they are so clueless they have no idea how to proceed if the answer is no.
Lesson # 2
The PAP’s cavalier and lackadaisical attitude on this matter is extremely troubling. After losing tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funded military vehicles, as well as a sizeable chunk of the SAF combat capability, the PAP is hardly in a hurry to recover them, nor is there any sense of urgency. The PAP seems to be taking a very passive wait and see attitude. Minister Ng has mentioned in his Parliament announcement “that the country has informed Hong Kong a couple of times over the last two months that the vehicles belong to the Singapore Government”. A couple of times over 2 month? You mean once a month on average? Are you kidding? That’s all? What happened to being on the phone with them every day to chase them for the return? And when the Hong Kong authorities brushed them off, “He said that the Hong Kong authorities have responded that the investigation is ongoing and will take some time to complete, noting that the Hong Kong government will handle the matter in accordance with their laws “, Minister Ng just meekly said “Ok”. What happened to formal protests, in fact, several of them? What happened to sending multiple delegations to Beijing and Hong Kong to request for their return? Certainly, there must be a 1000 ways to exert much more pressure on Hong Kong and China. And Lee Hsien Loong wrote a letter to Leung Chun Ying? Seriously? That must have scared the bejesus out of Hong Kong. Is Lee Hsien Loong adverse to picking up a phone and personally call the Hong Kong Chief Executive himself? Does he feel that as a natural aristocrat, this is below his station in life to make a call? We are paying this PM millions of $ a year, and he cannot pick up a phone? Is he afraid his Cantonese is not good enough? His wife could have translated for him, I am sure. Or how about summoning the Chinese ambassador to the Istana and giving him a dressing down? I don’t see this relaxed attitude when it comes to Amos, Roy and other opposition members.
Lesson # 3
We have absolutely no relationships with our major trading partners. We used to have a lot of them when LKY was the PM. LKY had a close and personal relationship with Chiang Ching Kuo of Taiwan and Deng Xiaopeng of China. If this incident had happened on LKY’s watch, he would have picked up a phone and called Deng, and this issue would go away. For all his faults, LKY got along with many world leaders, counting them as personal friends, with perhaps the exception of Mahathir. But apparently, there is no one in the PAP or Singapore govt that knows anyone in China or Hong Kong. What happened to the sizeable presence of EDB in Hong Kong and Temasek Holdings in China? After pumping billions of $ into China GLC banks and companies, does Ho Ching not know even one influential and high place govt. official? No one at all that could act as an intermediary or informal arbitrator? I mean George Yeo, former Minister for FA is in Hong Kong for crying out loud. Its is painfully clear that LHL has failed to cultivate these relations with our neighbouring countries. When Suharto was alive, LKY was a close friend and even flew to Jakarta to visit him at his deathbed. Do you think the Indonesians would ever dare to name 2 warships after terrorists who attacked Singapore while Suharto was alive? Despite being personally trained by his father for years, LHL does not seem to have cultivated the same sort of informal and personally relationships with world leaders. Or perhaps he did not bother to maintain these relationships that his father assiduously cultivated. Is it his personality? Is he an introvert at heart and socially awkward? Or is he so arrogant he does not care to know them? Whatever the reason, this is now coming back to bite us. Since 2010, we have had 3 Foreign Ministers. George Yeo, Shanmugan, and Vivian Balakrishnan, the last 2 were completely ill suited for the job because one was a lawyer and the other an eye doctor. By contrast, Singapore’s best foreign minister, S Rajaratnam, served in his post for 15 years from 1965 to 1980. It’s not possible to form good relationships with your counterparts from other countries when you have been in the post for such a short time and especially when your background is not in diplomacy. This Terrex incident is all about relationships. China would have given face to us and let the Terrex pass if we had good relations with her. The failure of LHL to understand this simple concept is unfathomable. How is it possible that Donald Trump, who is not yet POTUS, is able to develop a positive relationship with Putin even before taking office, and LHL is not able to develop anything years after taking office?
Lesson # 4
We have lost all our friends. How it happened, I have no idea. After doing a favour for Obama and the US, LHL criticized China over the South China Sea. Now that we have lost the Terrex, I don’t see Obama denouncing the seizure of these vehicles, and helping us out with some international condemnation. What about Taiwan? The vehicles came from there, and got knows, the Chinese are already mad at the Taiwanese. It couldn’t hurt the Taiwanese anymore if they showed support for one of their very few military allies in the world. Yet nothing heard from them. What about all these South East Asian countries with claims in the South China Sea, and for whom Singapore spoke up for when they criticized china. Where are they now? The real killer is China itself. After taking in 1 million of their citizens and giving them jobs, clean air and sanitary living conditions and in many cases free education, the country has turned around and done this to us. Secretly, all these countries are happy to see us get our comeuppance. Not one other country anywhere in the world has denounced or criticize the seizures. The whole thing came about because we helped out some other country. Did the US con LHL into making those statements critical of the Chinese?
Lesson # 5
And this is the most terrifying lesson of all. We are now a defacto vassal state of China. The PAP has allowed us to be in this ridiculously untenable situation. We have allowed in 1 million Chinese and have put them into all sectors of our economy. From banking, to bus drivers, MRT staff, hospital doctors and nurses, etc. We cannot even retaliate against China by kicking them out of the country, because that would bring our economy to a screeching halt. At the same time, billions of our money is tied up in China, through Temasek and other GLC and private Singapore companies investments there. Any retaliation against China could have heavy financial consequences for us. The bald truth is they have us by the short hairs. There is nothing that we dare do accept throw verbal insults at them. Once the Chinese can clearly see that the PAP will not do anything drastic and will let hte 9 Terrex ride off into a Chinese sunset, they will be testing us in other ways too. They might as well annex us and turn us into the next Province. This is actually the worse threat to our national security. Not the threat of terrorism (all the terrorist activities in the singapore in the last 50 years) have not resulted in the lost of 9 military vehicles. This is not a theoretical threat to out security. This is real, with real military hardware lost. We have to bite our tongue and go away empty handed. This is a form of subjugation and domination that China is exercising on us, make no mistake about it. And all brought to us by courtesy of poor PAP economic and political decisions. The PAP is the greatest threat to SIngapore national security not ISIS or AL Queda. The scary thing is bad as the current leadership is, the next gen of PAP leaders might be even worse.