Sunday, May 3, 2015

Singapore's tripartism: A time for self-reflection

May 03, 2015

Chua Mui Hoong,
Opinion Editor

Sectoral approach a welcome shift; learn from European social-partners model

Just what is there to celebrate about Singapore's tripartism?

From one vantage point, a lot. The resident employment rate is at a record high of 72.3 per cent. Unemployment is low. Young people leaving school have good jobs. Companies feel secure enough to sink in billions in investment for the long term. Strikes are alien.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a suitably rallying speech at the May Day Rally on Friday, when he said of the National Trades Union Congress: "No trade union congress anywhere else in the world has been as effective as NTUC in improving workers' lives."

Even without raw data to substantiate that, I guess many will appreciate the sentiment behind that statement, which is that the harmonious state of industrial relations here is due to the hard work of unions, employer groups and the Government, and something valuable to be safeguarded.

But consider the challenges workers face today, and you might say tripartism still has a long way to go.

Practical, not ideological, approach needed on human rights

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe partly because countries in the region are clinging to value systems based on an extreme ideological concept of the universality of rights, said Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Ambassador at Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who hopes South-east Asia and Singapore will learn from Europe’s mistakes and not fall into the same trap. Mr Kausikan made these remarks as guest of honour yesterday at a seminar on state practice on the freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the region. Below is his speech, which he delivered in his personal capacity.

May 1

Human rights are undoubtedly a very important subject. But if we were to do justice to their importance, we must take a practical and not an ideological approach. And the first premise of a practical approach must be to admit that not all rights are compatible or capable of simultaneous realisation. There is not one good but many goods, and not all goods are compatible.
A corollary to this is to dismiss from our minds the myth that all rights are really universal. This should not be understood as dismissing the importance of human rights or as an excuse for suppressing them, but as a simple description of reality. The fact is, all rights evolve according to specific circumstances and within the context of particular cultures, beliefs, values and changing historical contexts. How we understand rights today is not the same as we understood them 100 or 50 or even, say, just five or 10 years ago.

Avoiding fits of intolerance


May 2, 2015

The debate over Ikea's link with outspoken pastor Lawrence Khong represents in some respects a storm in a teacup. The content of the magic show is not in question; Ikea has said it respected diversity in the community (indeed, it has every commercial reason to do so); and entertainers are entitled to their own opinions.

What touched a raw nerve was Mr Khong's strong views on homosexuality, which prompted one camp to urge Ikea to withdraw its support to avoid controversy, and another camp to decry efforts to impose ideological conformity.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Japan should be worried

April 24, 2015

Here's what China may be up to in the South China Sea

TETSURO KOSAKA, Nikkei senior staff writer

TOKYO -- China is pushing ahead with its artificial island building in the South China Sea, where it plans airstrips and other facilities.

     Reports in Japan say the U.S. military is feeling a growing sense of urgency over China's aggresive island-making projects. But Japan should be feeling even more anxiety.

     Many analysts say China is moving to secure seabed resources from around its artificial islets. But it could easily go further and even one day drive a military wedge between Japan and the U.S.

     Lying at the very heart of the issue is the balance of nuclear power between the U.S. and China.

Monday, April 27, 2015

China Seeks Great Power Status After Sea Retreat

by David Tweed

July 3, 2014

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Admiral Zheng He is everywhere in China these days, even though he died almost 600 years ago. The government is promoting him to remind its people -- and Asia -- that China’s destiny is to be a great naval power.

Almost a century before Christopher Columbus discovered America, Zheng in 1405 embarked on a series of voyages with ships of unrivaled size and technical prowess, reaching as far as India and Africa.

The expeditions are in the spotlight in official comments and state media as China lays claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea and President Xi Jinping seeks to revive China’s maritime pride. In doing so he risks setting up confrontations with Southeast Asian neighbors and the U.S., whose navy has patrolled the region since World War II. Geopolitical dominance of the South China Sea would give China control of one of the world’s most economically and politically strategic areas.

“The Chinese believe they have the right to be a great power,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “What we are seeing is a hardening of China’s stance about its place in the world.”

Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation

April 26

KUALA LUMPUR - The Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbors to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but the call failed to raise widespread support ahead of a regional summit.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.

In a speech to foreign ministers ahead of the official opening of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario did not name China directly but said its "northern neighbor" was quickly advancing with land reclamation.

"Is it not time for ASEAN to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?" Rosario asked.

S'pore and KL at odds over Malay rights

Apr 26, 2015

This week in 1965 | A look back at the events that shaped Singapore 50 years ago
By Ho Ai Li


Singapore and Kuala Lumpur sharpened their differences over the issue of Malay rights, as news about an impending move to set up an opposition alliance ruffled the feathers of central government leaders.