Leadership: Singapore Sting


January 18, 2011:  Singaporean officials are putting up a brave face after highly embarrassing Wikileaks’ disclosures. They have rubbished the leaked cables as “cocktail talk” and accused the media of blowing the casual remarks out of context. Singapore-specific cables have shown that diplomats and officials of this tiny but prosperous city state have scant regard for leaders of neighboring countries and have insulted their neighbors with disparaging remarks.

For example, Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew described North Koreans as ‘psychopathic types’ ruled by a "flabby old chap who prances around stadiums seeking adulation." A highly defamatory remark made by Singapore’s intelligence officials to the Australian government described Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as guilty of sodomy in a case which is pending judicial verdict. The official bragged that Singapore reached this conclusion on the strength of intercepted “technical intelligence” from Malaysia.

Tommy Koh, a senior diplomat of Singapore, took pot shots at Japan and said that Japan was “the big fat loser” in the larger strategic matrix as China’s relations with ASEAN nations continued to improve. This is not insulting had Koh stopped at that only. However, the Singaporean diplomat blabbed on and blamed Japan’s “stupidity, bad leadership, and lack of vision.” Koh dragged in the Indians as well and called India “stupid” for being “half-in, half-out” of ASEAN.

 Another leaked cable quotes Peter Ho, Singapore’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Permanent Secretary, telling a U.S. official in March 2008 that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was an “opportunist”. Another Singapore diplomat told an American official  that ousted Thailand leader Thaksin Shinawatra was ‘corrupt’, along with "everyone else, including the opposition."

 Kausikan, the senior most official in Singapore’s foreign ministry, had also bad mouthed Malaysia in September 2008 and remarked that “a lack of competent leadership is a real problem for Malaysia”. He had also made disdainful remarks against Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak saying that he was fighting for his political survival after being embroiled in a murder scandal. The Malaysian Foreign Minister has formally lodged protest with the Singapore government in this regard.

Singapore is the wealthiest nation in the region (with about the same GDP per capita as Australia.) Indonesians and Malaysians resent the wealthy Australians, for being foreign (European) interlopers. They have a similar attitude towards Singapore. That's because most Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese. For over a thousand years, Chinese merchants have settled throughout Southeast Asia, and prospered. Although there has been some intermarriage, many of the "Overseas Chinese" communities maintain the Chinese language and customs. Superior Chinese culture and all that. The usual story. This is resented by the locals (be they Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Filipino, well, you get the picture.) The Indonesians believe, with some justification, that the Chinese look down on them, and exploit them. The Chinese are more ambitious and work harder, and smarter, and the locals often respond by persecuting their Chinese minority. Indonesia has a GDP that is one seventh that of Singapore or Australia. Indonesia believes Singapore, in particular (because of about four million Indonesians of Chinese ancestry) should do more to help Indonesia become wealthier, and better equipped for combat. Singapore used to be part of Malaysia, but because of the overwhelmingly Chinese population of Singapore, the city was able to become a separate nation. Malaysia has 27 million people, Indonesia has 230 million.





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