Pritam Singh Back Out as GOH For Gaza Charity Concert

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Dear Pritam,

I happened to look at the flyer about the charity concert, in aid of humanity or was it Palestine? I was shocked that you were listed as the guest of honour in the earlier flier.

I don’t know what you were thinking of when you agreed. I see it as a populist move to get more votes but I think you have erred in this case. I will come to that later.

You came across as being cut from a different piece of cloth but alas, you have proven that you are no different from the others of your ilk. Therein lies a lesson for us, the common people: When politics come into play, the public suffer. In the game of one-upmanship and votes, thousands of Palestinians and Israelis died unnecessarily in the armed conflict and the images from the conflict has been utterly shocking. The Israelis and Palestinians are both at fault for allowing this carnage.

I trawled our parliament pages to find Singapore’s stand and I agree with it. A tiny country’s words do not carry far but nonetheless, we have registered our point and we are correct to call upon Israel and Hamas to stop their death games. That’s what we did and I was surprised that we did make the call. Israel has been one of the first countries in the world to recognise our status as a new country and it was the first to respond to our call to help build up our defence force. But it was also revealing when Shanmugam said: “Our relationship with Israel is not any deeper than with many other countries. In fact, several other countries have much more leverage over Israel. We are a small country, far removed from Israel, and we have a good relationship with Israel as we have with the Palestinian National Authority and several other Arab countries, and many others.” 

However, to stand up and voice our condemnation to an ally takes a lot of guts.

As for the Palestinians, I read that we have been giving them aid. Let me quote Foreign Minister Shanmugam’s response in parliament on 5 August 2014:
“We have maintained good relationships with the Palestinian National Authority. Mr Goh Chok Tong, when he was Senior Minister, had visited Palestine. And we have been supportive of the two-state solution and consistent with that, we have tried to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.
“Last year, at the UN General Assembly, Singapore voted for all Palestinian-related resolutions. That is as public a support as you can get.
“I personally met the Palestinian National Authority’s Foreign Minister last year, and we had a good exchange of views. We have also supported visits from the Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority to Singapore. Indeed, we financially support that.

“Since 2013, we have been participating in the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD). During CEAPAD I in Tokyo last year, we announced Singapore’s enhanced Technical Assistance Package for the Palestinian National Authority, worth at $5 million over five years, which is more than several of our regional countries have pledged. Under this package, we have received several delegations and study visits. The Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli met with the Palestinian National Authority’s Prime Minister during CEAPAD II in Jakarta earlier this year. Mr Masagos encouraged the Prime Minister to send more Palestinians to Singapore under this package. We hope that they do so.

“So, politically, materially and philosophically, we have been supportive of the Palestinian cause and we have made that very public.”
Hamas is the thorn in this case and they are using the people to further their militant viewpoint. As Shanmugam said, “The international community can make statements, and can try and bring some sense, but ultimately, it is going to require that the actors themselves to also want peace.

“At the end of the day, the fact is, the Israelis and Hamas – and I say Hamas because there was not a single rocket from the West Bank which is under the control of the Palestinian National Authority, and there have been no attacks by Israel on West Bank – are responsible for what is happening in Gaza, and they have to exercise political will, and take concrete steps to bring an end to the conflict.”

Now coming back to my statement that you have erred. The charity concert event that you are willing to grace will definitely polarise Singaporeans. In a multi-cultural and secular society like ours, this issue will definitely pull religion, by its collar, into the picture. This is an explosive issue and will you be able to handle it. I say, you will not. Then who will be left with the mess created by this one inconsiderate act of yours: Us, we, the people of Singapore.

During the same debate in parliament, you talked about the impact of the images including the possibility of self-radicalisation.
I share the same view as Shanmugam, which is, there is nothing much we can do. 

The images and the news from Gaza has already created rifts in friendships. Strong views have caused many carefully nurtured friendships to fray. I personally, have kept away from some friends who supported either Israel or Palestine, not just because of their extreme and unforgiving comments but because they wanted me take sides with them in this conflict. It was either I am with them or against them. 

Do you think the charity concert will just be a fund-raising platform? Did you ask the organisers for their agenda? Is this your individual stand or the Workers’ Party’s stand? Are you a willing party to this concert which will definitely radicalise Singaporeans in their thoughts and actions? Are you and your party willing to be responsible for the aftermath? Will you and the Workers’ Party be responsible for us, Singaporeans?

Sadly, I don’t think so. All you, the Workers’ Party and other opposition parties, think about is yourself. Let us come to power and we’ll prove it to you, you said in the last elections. But what did you do? Nothing at all. Bereft of views, ideas and suggestions, you and your party are taking us for a ride. We Singaporeans are waking up to you and your kind. 

But what is intolerable is you trying to drive a wedge between us, Singaporeans, by endorsing such events. For the political survival of you and the Workers’ Party, please don’t use us. It is not fair to us.

Authored by Robert De Souza


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