On channelling nationalism in a direction that is constructive (Singapore Summit 2014)

On channelling nationalism in a direction that is constructive (Singapore Summit 2014)


PM Lee: Nationalism is a very powerful force. It can be a plus, it can be a minus. If you harness it to get people to take pride in themselves and to work to develop and grow, you can transform the country. I mean if you are not proud of your country, you are not going to go anywhere. But at the same time, you have to understand that you are living in a world where you have to have to be friends with others, where power is not the only factor, and if you are going to maintain your power, then being able to have that equal relationship with other countries, is something which is critical. And I think small countries know that instinctively. We look to build up our armed forces and our national pride, but we also look to make friends with neighbours. I think it applies also to the big countries. I mean it is one of the reasons why America has been able to maintain its position and it is welcome in the region all these decades. So you do not need a solution to nationalism, you need to channel nationalism in a direction which is constructive and which is compatible with us all prospering together. ISIS has no solution in terms of going in and taking them out and making peace break out in the Middle East. You can do various things to hem them in, weaken them, knock out their leaders, deploy your drones. But even if you put boots on the ground which the Americans had – hundred thousand boots on the ground in Iraq until not very long ago – you cannot really change fundamentally the texture of the society and the people there and when you are gone, the problem will come back. So that is a very difficult problem in the Middle East. What we can do in our own homes is to watch to the security, watch to the confidence building and trust building between the different communities, and make sure that amongst our own communities here, the Muslims have leaders who will stand up and say that the ISIS that is not Islam, that is evil and we repudiate them and condemn them and try and prevent people from being misled by them. And that fortunately in Singapore, we have got religious leaders who have said that and said that emphatically and I think that the population in general understands that. Once in a while, you get people who are led astray and if we are lucky, well we discover it and pick them up early. If not, once in a while, they slip through and we have a couple who are in Syria and Iraq, including a woman with teenage children who are there and the children are part of this. So it is something to be taken with absolute seriousness. Ambassador Chan Heng Chee: We have, of course, encountered the Al-Qaeda threat in the region a few years earlier and it was still there and we were watching for this and then ISIS was a new phenomenon. You think ISIS is a more serious threat? About the same? PM Lee: Well, they are not trying to change us. Al-Qaeda explicitly had a group in Southeast Asia which was aiming to set up a caliphate, an Islamic state which covered all the Muslim parts of Southeast Asia and we are not a Muslim part of Southeast Asia but we are right in the middle thereof. So we were directly the target. In the case of the ISIS we are not their targets. Their target is a caliphate where they are, but people go there and adopt their cause and fight there and if they come home with that passion and those convictions and those skills, who knows what is going to happen. You see what the Australians have just had to do? They have picked up a bunch of people because they had information that the man in the Middle East had called up the man in Australia and said let us randomly behead somebody and inspire terror in the Australians. That is… These are very… They think very differently from you and me.

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