Friday, February 7, 2014

A frigate's name: Lessons from Indonesia

Indonesia has unambiguously reminded us who and what they really are. We had it good with Suharto but he could only rule and live for so long. What we can expect from them most of the time, thinking in probabilities comes from their history and culture. We had conveniently forgotten that those two marines remain war heroes. We failed to juxtapose this against how Germany view the Nazis - no war heroes from there except shot by Hitler.

To be realistic could we expect otherwise? No. Was it right for the Indonesians to regard those marines as war heroes? I think so. They were just carrying out orders as any soldier would. Civilian targets? Don't be a hypocrite, war is damn dirty. Just check what is going in Syria now. That's why we should only resort to fighting as a last resort but carry it a big stick and talk softly as the first resort.

And why do I demand that our leaders should never pussy foot but tell us with with a bold face what the issues are. We will be swallowed up if we are timid. From their reaction of us complaining to them about the haze, I am afraid they increasingly think we can be bullied. Perhaps it is time to send a clear message. We don't want anyone to get hurt.

The Indonesian just delivered us a learning opportunity. I hope we learn all its lessons well. Kim Jung Un would look for an opportunity to sink that frigate but I think we can do much better than that. Question is do we have the gumption to use our options? If we are timid we wouldn't even be able to recognize them.

Update: Feb 8 10:00 am

I agree with Dr. Koh. Perhaps we should consider if it would be effective to make Thohari persona non grata in Singapore. He can forget about spending weekends here shopping and worse coming here to see our doctors.

His colleague Tan Chuan Jin connects better but the more strategic thinker is this fellow. In other words Singapore is prepared to burn bilateral relations if necessary. We all lose from such actions but sometimes keeping relations only lead you to losing even more. I am afraid we are dealing with a stupid and irrational neighbor. Stupid people cannot think and you need to bring a stick with you to knock some sense into them. But this is not easy and we have to be mindful of collateral effects and unintended consequences.

Update: Feb 8 3:55 pm

Just caught this off PAP Facebook how Channel 5 presented it.


  1. May I latch on to your reasoned rationale which explained why an ex president in Indonesia called Singapore a Tiny Red Dot, seemed proud of his remark and his countrymen seemed to agree wholeheartedly?

    PM Lee must use this opportunity to explain to younger Singaporeans and those with only rose tinted glasses why Total Defence is just not mere words but given the kind of tectonic global shifts in financial, political & social and economic strategic plates we ignore the lessons at our own peril.

    1. Unfortunately, PM Lee no longer has the moral authority to preach about Total Defence. In my opinion, this concept has been given short shrift for the last 2 decades. Its one of those "auto-pilot" things inherited from the Old PAP, that today's PAP is just carrying out in form, but not substance.

      Total Defence requires you to look at defence of a country wholistically - economy, our social cohesian etc. We let in 1 million foreigners in the last 10 years and are essentially making home-grown Singaporeans a minority in their own country. We still disallow Malays from high positions in the army and disallow them to be pilots -- but we've no compunction allowing a PRC-born or India-born "citizen" who chose to serve NS from ascending to those positions. What makes us think today's threats are still the same as it was 30, 40 years ago when all these policies were crafted? What makes us think that today's reservists can be DEPENDABLY called on to die for their country, when the crunch comes?

      We'd a fire at the Singtel facility, causing half the country to lose Internet, because the maintenance procedures put in place decades ago, were put on auto-pilot. Mas Selamat escaped and recently, a supposedly mad woman penetrated our check-points, because the procedures were put in place decades ago. Heck ... the "no restaurant quality food" stipulation for rental of hawker stalls was recently discovered as another auto-pilot procedure that's lost is relevance today.

      The whole country is run on auto-pilot. Just like SMRT breaking down, Singtel facility on fire etc etc -- we'll realise to our horrors someday, that today's leaders are really nothing special at all, compared to the old PAP. And be caught with our pants down.

  2. i think the word 'nationalistic' is not in our country's vocabulary.
    hence we are having problem being a singaporean which has become a daily buzzword!

    whenever nationalism is being raised by citizen, someone from the G will quickly hush it. what irony!

    everything we do we say must be on middle ground.

    so now what does the G expect citizens to react to these 2 frigates's name?

    frankly, nothing!

  3. Nothing but politcians playing jingoism

  4. In the past, I would have backed the government's position. Now, I am thinking that they are control freaks with over-sized ego to match. Now why would I back someone who take every opportunity to restrict freedom and access of information and pass all kinds of bad laws to legalize their actions?

  5. The era of governing by auto-pilot probably started from "Press 1 for English ... you call is important to us ... all our customer service consultants ...."

    The simple and obvious fact is that if Singapore ceases to exist tomorrow, Indonesia will still be around for a very long time and the PRs will going home cursing under their breath for their lost CPF. Indonesians can afford not to give a damn about us.

  6. Where do you think the hundred of thousands of Indonesians on our soil will stand on this matter ? Our government seriously needs to wake up.