Singapore needs to be prepared 'economically, politically and socially' when pressed by other countries on issues: Shanmugam
Mr Shanmugam also said that internal security is vital, because external forces can now destabilise a country, even without a war.
SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to be prepared economically, politically and socially when pressed on issues like energy, airspace and water, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a speech on Thursday (Aug 4) at the Home Team National Day Observance Ceremony.
He said: "Essentially, a country like Singapore – any country, but we in particular – needs to be prepared economically, politically and socially. And unless we are successful, we are just a piece of rock off the Southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula."
Mr Shanmugam highlighted in his speech that the key development this year is Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and he wanted to touch on that and what it means for Singapore.
Mr Shanmugam said that countries make assertions and only the "absurdly naive will take these assertions at face value".
He added that what countries actually do "depends on their core interest, strengths and their ability to get what they want".
"It doesn’t mean war all the time, but if they can bully you in any way, they will. And we know that from experience.
"If you are vulnerable, or if others think that they can press you on any aspect, the other country will press those buttons."
Mr Shanmugam said that a primary lesson for Singapore about the Russian invasion, is that any country "will have to assess carefully what another country’s intentions are".
He added Singapore has to take "expressions of good intentions with caution" and that at the core, it must always be ready to defend itself.
He cited how three months before the invasion began, Russia's Ambassador to the European Union said Russia was not planning an attack against any country. The ambassador even assured the European Union that no Russian troops were preparing for an invasion of Ukraine.
"As we celebrate National Day, I think it is important to remember that in the end, it is only Singaporeans, all of you, that can guarantee our security," said Mr Shanmugam.
He also said that Singapore must have the ability to defend itself and this means that "the basic, non-negotiable core has got to be a strong SAF".
"Without that, you can’t guarantee anything else. And if you don’t have that, you can forget about anything else," he added.
Mr Shanmugam also touched on internal security, saying that it is vital because external forces can "destabilise a country, even without a war".
He said the Russians have developed a doctrine called Gerasimov doctrine and they say every country has a "protest potential".
Using Singapore as an example, Mr Shanmugam say race and religion are "faultlines" that others may exploit.
"They make people think that the other side is attacking them within the country, they weaken the country," he said.
Mr Shanmugam added: "So, you need, in that context, an extremely strong and capable Home Team, and within that framework, an extremely strong and capable Internal Security Department, and a population that understands these realities, which can effectively deal with foreign attempts to exploit the divisions within our country – whether they are racial, religious, class, economic."
Mr Shanmugam said that The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act has been "strengthened substantially" over the years.
"Racial Harmony – we have indicated that we are working on legislation on that. FICA, POFMA and various pieces of legislation."
Mr Shanmugam said that the framework is in place, adding that the resources and capabilities have to be developed, and "the will to use this framework has got to be there".