Malaysia making mockery of close-knit Asean

The recent incursion by Malaysian vessels into Singapore waters is a timely reminder of how unpredictable and fragile relationships between neighbours really are, despite a seemingly close kinship.

To outsiders, it is also a slap in the face of Asean, which has projected an image of unity and close cooperation between the countries.

Given the just-concluded Asean summit's success and the recent official visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to Singapore, the present state of affairs is mystifying.

The instances of the big country blatantly bullying its smaller neighbours in Asean somehow make a mockery of the close-knit association and its purported goals and objectives.

The incident reminds us of the prescient and prophetic statement of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew: "We have friendly neighbours? Grow up!"

The latest incident serves as a reality check for many Singaporeans on how geopolitical reality should never be taken for granted.

It is a fact that as a small red dot, we will always be the favourite bogeyman for others when they are overwhelmed by domestic issues.

However, when push comes to shove, Singapore will just have to be the poisonous shrimp that will be hard to swallow.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'Malaysia making mockery of close-knit Asean'. Print Edition | Subscribe