Parties that break agreements must be penalised

I am sure it was with the best of intentions that Mr Tan Shao Yi wrote about how flexible, understanding and conciliatory Singapore should be in dealing with Malaysia's planned cancellation of the High-Speed Rail project (Excellent chance for 4G leaders to prove their mettle; June 7).

It is true that with the comity of nations in mind, we can help our neighbour, if approached to do so.

But, it is also a given that Singapore, as a small city state intent on avoiding any potential conflict, must conduct itself with probity in all dealings with other nations.

In business transactions, we protect and bind consenting parties with iron-clad contracts and agreements.

Just as we expect to be held to our word and to pay recompense for any agreement reneged upon, so should other parties be penalised according to stated terms if they withdraw from any contract.

In any international negotiation or business deal instituted after careful consideration, the parties that sign and are bound by contractual obligations and legalities cannot backtrack or do a U-turn without facing consequences.

Call it unaccommodating or inflexible, but that is the way it should be.

Business is still business after all. Concessions without quid pro quo trade-offs can never be the norm, regardless of friendliness or neighbourliness.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'Parties that break agreements must be penalised'. Print Edition | Subscribe