A Malaysian patient walked into our medical centre the other day and made a joke. “My Prime Minister wants to charge you 10 times more for water. Will you charge us more for treatment since you use our water?’’ My colleague cheekily answered “We shall see.’’
Singapore now faces enormous challenges from up north. In fact, Singapore faces a formidable opponent from up north – our wily old nemesis Dr Mahathir. Our honeymoon period with Malaysia under Badawi and Najib is over. For all his domestic problems, Najib had been reasonable and fair to Singapore. As a Singaporean, I fear for our future. We need to stand together, united.
Within weeks after taking office, Dr Mahathir has made three very hostile moves towards us. First, he blatantly wants the government here overthrown. At a press conference, he made it clear that it is time for our elected government to be out. “The people of Singapore must be tired of having the same government since independence,’’ he declared. It doesn’t occur to him such irresponsible comments have serious impact on our citizens and bilateral relations. Imagine if Singapore leaders had said we want Malaysians to remove their Government! But at 93 and with his mortality staring down at him, he probably doesn’t care.
Second, he wants to raise the price of water by 10 times. Again, he doesn’t really care if that price adjustment breaks the international agreement between the two countries. And it may ultimately translate into higher water prices, not just for Singaporeans but also for Malaysians. Worse, Dr Mahathir doesn’t care if disputes in the water agreement and ultimately any threats to water supply will inadvertently lead to war. How long can we survive in our island without water- one week?
Third, Dr Mahathir immediately cancelled the high speed railway. And then he backpedalled and said he would delay and asked for less penalty. Singapore taxpayers had spent millions in good faith to prepare for the project that will bring the two countries closer together. Trade, tourism, social links. All up the smoke because this fellow didn’t like us. And he wants another crooked bridge to link us instead!
We need to get this straight. Dr Mahathir is not our friend. Worse, he wants to bring down Singapore whenever he can. He joked about bombing us with his fighter planes. He repeatedly talks about cutting our water supply. His army official talked about poisoning our water. He never got over his personal humiliation as a student in Singapore.
Malaysians and some Singaporeans alike (namely PJ Thum and his business associates) are being deceived into thinking reformasi has arrived in Malaysia. Full democracy and freedom is taking place. No more race-based, read Malay-dominance politics and economic policies. All men are equal. We all would like to believe such ideals. To grab power, Dr Mahathir is willing to backtrack, break from his principles to team up with people he locked up – Anwar Ibrahim after saying he was not fit to be PM and giving him a punch in the eye, his long-time nemesis Lim Kit Siang and Lim’s son. Even his former ISD detainee is now his defence minister. Surely it would be stupid to think that the man who wrote the anti-Chinese “The Malay Dilemma’’ is suddenly a great fan of equal rights and democracy. I can only wish our Malaysian friends well. Alas, things are beginning to show. Suddenly, laws are disregarded and his AG dismissed corruption charges against Lim Guan Eng. More of the same?
Now this is where our liberal activist friends don’t get it. It is in such a hostile context and background that they decided to travel up north to grab some cheap soundbites and publicity to promote their cause. Or was it to promote their George Soros-funded business?
But are they in touch with the real political grounds back home? Have they seen how Chee Soon Juan, after two decades of Western style civil disobedience and liberal democratic antics, never got near any parliamentary seats? If they are looking for more support from fellow Singaporeans like me, is this the way to go? Going up north to hold up an anti-Government book and take picture with our chief nemesis? What would the Americans think if one of their activists went across to North Korea and invited the Kims to come and influence their local politics and bring down their government?
When they found public opinion against them, they tried their usual tricks- confusing people with big words, playing victim, saying they are not traitors. But they forgot to scrub their Facebook pages. Apparently Thum has made statements like he wishes Singapore will “return to our rightful place alongside our brothers and sisters in Malaya”. (That was before the change of guard in Malaysia- so perhaps he’s not as pro-democracy as he claims!) Only Sonny Liew was self-reflective enough to say they were naïve. Even so, naïve is an understatement.
Our country faces a difficult time with our recalcitrant neighbour. He has drawn a hostile line in the sand – one that is dangerous and can cost us dearly. Existential issues, yes, water and our security. At 93, he would be making even more Trump-like risky moves. Do we stand on our side or with the other fellow? We need to manoeuvre very carefully from here on with our Malaysian friends. We need to stand united. What we don’t need is one of our own going in to stir more shit, being used and inadvertently helping that old fox.
Any way you look at it, it was a stupid strategic error.