'We are always only aligned to one country — Singapore': Shanmugam on need to put national interest first amid global challenges
SINGAPORE — Amid a global situation that is "more uncertain and challenging than any period we have had to deal with in a long time", Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Sunday (Feb 5) laid out Singapore's survival approach — which starts with being clear about the country's principles.
- Describing the global situation as "more uncertain and challenging" than before, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said Singapore must be clear about its principles
- This includes putting the country's interests first and not letting other countries dictate Singapore's actions
- In a speech at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Spring Reception on Sunday evening (Feb 5), Mr Shanmugam pointed out various global challenges that would have an impact on Singapore
- He then called on the organisations like the Hokkien Huay Kuan to inculcate the right values in future generations, among other things, to ensure Singapore can stay "quietly confident"
SINGAPORE — Amid a global situation that is "more uncertain and challenging than any period we have had to deal with, almost since independence", Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Sunday (Feb 5) laid out Singapore's survival approach — which starts with being clear about the country's principles.
"As a small country, we have to be clear on what are our principles. We must always put Singapore’s interests first, and never be afraid to act in our own interests," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Minister for Law.
"Uphold our principles and positions consistently, impartially, objectively, and not let other countries, big or small, no matter how friendly, dictate to us what we do."
Speaking at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Spring Reception on Sunday evening, he said that the Republic has always believed that "many major countries need to participate and be in this region. To have a balance of power".
This is why Singapore has extensive ties with the United States, China and Europe, said Mr Shanmugam.
For example, Singapore supports the US' economic, military and security presence in the region, the jobs they create and the investments they bring into the Republic.
As for China, it is Singapore's largest trading partner, and the city-state has had various collaborations and government-to-government development projects with the Asian giant over the past decades.
Singapore also has strong ties with Europe, with Mr Shanmugam pointing out Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent trip to Germany to launch the navy's two new submarines.
WHY IT MATTERS
Geopolitical tensions have been on the rise, especially in the past year. This includes:
- Russia-Ukraine war
- US-China tensions
- Protectionism undermining the multilateral trading system
All of which are "very complex challenges", said Mr Shanmugam who also noted that a Chinese balloon over the US has recently caused conflict between the two major powers — the US labelled it a spy balloon, while China said it is a weather balloon.
While such tensions have pushed some countries to take sides, Singapore has consistently refused to do so.
Last April, Mr Lee Hsien Loong told Singapore media at the end of his working visit to the United States that Singapore had not taken a side in the Ukraine conflict, but rather a "principled stand" against Russia's invasion.
And during the last National Day Rally, he reiterated that Singapore was not siding with the US while addressing concerns that Singapore had stuck its neck out by taking a "strong stand" and condemning Russia in response to the ongoing war.
"But we have to be firm in our position and defend fundamental principles robustly. We cannot be ambiguous about where we stand. We believe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, big or small, must be respected," said PM Lee.
"These principles are existential for all nations, but especially so for a small nation like Singapore."
IN SHANMUGAM'S OWN WORDS
Mr Shanmugam said on Sunday: "So sometimes, the steps we take may look like it is more aligned with one country, other times it may look as if we are more aligned with another country, but actually we are always only aligned to one country — Singapore, ourselves and our principles.
"The consistent message is: We act, always, based on what is in Singapore's interests and our principles-based approach.
"Globally, our message to others, everyone, must be: Singapore is different, Singapore knows what it needs to do, and more importantly, that we have the courage and will to do the right thing for Singapore."
During his speech on Sunday, Mr Shanmugam called for groups like the Hokkien Huay Kuan to continue playing an "important role in bringing Singapore forward". This includes nurturing a Singaporean Chinese culture so people remain rooted.
He also recalled former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's New Year message in 1966, where he said Singapore needed to make friends overseas and grow markets worldwide, keep politics stable and predictable and remain quietly confident, especially if there is anxiety all around.
Noting that this has often been repeated by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and succeeding prime ministers, Mr Shanmugam said this is because Singapore's fundamentals do not change.
"We are a small country, our people are our only resource. We are highly vulnerable to external forces. No one owes us a living," he said. "To earn our living, we have to rely on our wits, be exceptional, so that others will want to deal with us."
It is because Singapore has followed these principles that it benefits from an increased standard of living, has social and political stability, has high security and is an advanced city with good standing in the world and strong links with other countries.
Ultimately, Singapore is "showing the world what good governance, stable politics and a united people can do", said Mr Shanmugam.
"We came through Covid-19 quite well. Not something that many countries can say, and it is not an outcome we should take for granted."
He cited a Pew Research study last year showing that 75 per cent of Singaporeans say that Singapore is more united than before Covid-19, as compared to the global average of 61 per cent that feel their countries are more divided.
"I think we are in a good position to remain quietly confident as Mr Lee Kuan Yew envisioned Singapore to be able to do, more than half a century ago," he said.
Related topicsgeopolitics Shanmugam foreign affairs
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