International bodies help prevent a world where 'might is right'

The article by British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman ("Lessons for today from the fall of Singapore"; Feb 14), brought back some of the drama and pain of those uncertain times.

It was most memorable for the plea he makes for the world community to uphold the many international institutions that were created in the aftermath of the years of suffering unleashed during World War II.

These institutions may not be perfect, yet they perform a very important developmental function, and have brought nations back from the brink of war many times.

The sensible course of action would be to tweak such bodies to represent today's world order better, not to declare them irrelevant or obsolete and stop contributing to them, at least not until better alternatives can be put in their place.

Singaporean thought leaders often reiterate how important such institutions are for small countries.

But, I think they matter greatly for all nations, large and small. They help prevent any one nation from throwing its weight around and bullying others, and they encourage all member states to collaborate and cooperate to solve thorny issues.

I was deeply moved by Mr Wightman's conclusion: " But if the international rules-based system is to survive, it requires all nations to defend its basic principles... For if the international system is not based on rules, what then will it be based on?"

One scary alternative could be a planet where "might is right", resulting in a Hobbesian world order where life is "nasty, brutish and short".

Tara Dhar Hasnain (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'International bodies help prevent a world where 'might is right''. Print Edition | Subscribe