Wikileaks and Singapore’s reputation

12 Dec

A series of Wikileaks cables obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald has shown that senior Singaporean officials have been sending confidential information to their U.S. counterparts on their dismissive impressions of neighbouring states.

According to the report, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Chiefs Peter Ho, Bilahari Kausikan and Tommy Koh who occupied some of the most important senior positions during 2008 and 2009 were dismissive of Malaysia. In one cable dated September 2008, Mr Kausikan suggested the possibility of racial conflict in Malaysia which would see its local Chinese escape into Singapore.

He also described the political officials in Thailand, including Thaksin Shinawatra as “corrupt” while in a 2009 September cable, Mr Koh characterised Japan as ”the big fat loser” in trying to improve relations between China and ASEAN. As for his Indian friends, Koh called them ‘stupid’ for being ‘half in, half out’ of ASEAN’.

In another cable leak, the assessment of the Australia’s Office of National Intelligence of Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy case in Malaysia as being politically motivated was contradicted by Singapore’s intelligences services and senior politician, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The latter told the Australians that Anwar was guilty of the alleged acts and claimed that their assessments were based on ‘technical intelligence’ which is most likely gained from intercepted communications.

These revelations have raised mind-boggling questions including but not limited to the Janus- face attitude of the Singapore government towards its neighbours. As the city state positions itself as a promoter of regional co-operation, these disclosures would compromise its ability to conduct foreign diplomacy. Foreign officials are more likely to develop distrust towards their Singaporean counterparts as a result of the leaks.

The hypocrisy of the Singaporean governmental officials are also extended to its claims of absolute sovereignty and a policy of non-interference from foreigners with regards to domestic politics. The leaked cables have shown that they are quite ready to provide advice to external third parties, in this case, the U.S. on the internal politics of neighbouring Malaysia.

These disclosures are a dent on the Singapore government’s reputation and credibility in the region as an impartial and disinterested party. The Foreign Affairs Ministry certainly has work on its hand as it seeks to mend the state’s regional mediater and broker status.

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