The Business Times

Lessons from the Usman Harun episode

Published Wed, Feb 19, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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THE naming of the Indonesian naval ship Usman Harun after the two marines who bombed MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965 brings to light an important point: Singapore cannot take for granted that its neighbours will always be sensitive to its concerns; they may also have their own interpretation of history that differs from ours.

This unfortunate reality may be reinforced by Singapore's small physical and population size, which may tempt others to view it as a soft target. Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam also acknowledged in Parliament "the size of others has been used as a bargaining chip" against Singapore ever since Independence and is not something new. He explained that Singapore has been able to hold its own because it has been successful and been able to "punch above its weight".

Implicit in Singapore's ability to hold its own are two important characteristics ironically sometimes taken for granted by the populace and, at other times, questioned.

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