More caution needed when expressing views in official forums

Mr Bilahari Kausikan has urged Singaporeans to be wary of China's attempts to manipulate them (S'poreans should be aware of China's influence ops: Bilahari; June 28).

However, his arguments against China are one-sided and unfair.

As a retired diplomat and former permanent secretary for foreign affairs, Mr Bilahari is surely aware that almost all major nations actively engage in promoting their interests and interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations by means fair or foul.

The CIA, MI5 and KGB certainly carry out such activities. The United States, Britain and France are actively involved in "regime change" in countries like Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Syria.

Yet, I have not heard of anyone condemning these countries for gross interferences.

Comparatively, the Chinese activities look like a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

Being such a prominent person in this field, Mr Bilahari's views, especially when made at an official conference held by a Singapore think-tank in conjunction with a number of American institutions, could be regarded by the Chinese as positions of the Singapore Government.

This could lead to the souring of relations between Singapore and China.

Whenever relations sour, it is the small business people who have to bear the brunt of it, especially when dealing with petty Chinese officials who create delays and make our lives difficult out of patriotism.

Hence, I urge our opinion makers to exercise greater caution when expressing their views in a public forum and consider Singaporeans' interests before they open their mouths.

Han Cheng Fong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2018, with the headline 'More caution needed when expressing views in official forums'. Print Edition | Subscribe