Openness to multi-racial harmony and cultural diversities
8) Bilateral Relationships/Friendships with the World
Under Mr Lee’s leadership, he understood that neighbourliness is very important for the safety and future growth of Singapore which was a small nation among bigger nations. Due to his vision, he set Singapore on a friendly diplomatic foot in establishing close and multi-faceted relations with the west mainly United States of America, United Kingdom, European Unions and also a strong relationships with the East Pacific powerhouse mainly China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand etc.. Vast trading and imports from the Middle East countries and not forgetting being a pivot and important leader in the ASEAN committee. These brought in not just business opportunities via many agreements such as free trade, making things cheaper in Singapore, but also making us easier and safer to travel.
I remember back in 2013, when I was crossing the border into Zimbabwe from Botswana with a group of American and Australian friends I experienced a very tense situation. The Zimbabwean officer came into the bus, he was carrying a riffle with a stern attitude demanding us to show him our passport before entering the immigration. Everyone took out our passport and he was pretty rude to my western friends, until he saw my red Singapore passport. He took it and said with a smile “so, you are our lovely friend! Welcome to Zimbabwe!”. Whew…I got through the immigration fast and easy without any trouble and no need to apply for visa. I remembered he added on “Free entry for you my friend!”. As for the rest of my westerner friends, they gotta wait for an hour at the immigration hall for the officers to grant their visa and entry. Back then, I strongly appreciate our country leaders for what they have done for us. Most importantly, without us knowing or realising.
By now, I believed many of you may read or heard about the numerous tributes and respect given by the world political leaders. Some were kind of expected such as Asian and Pacific countries leaders i.e. Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, America, United Kingdom pouring their tributes over their parliament, conferences and speeches. Some were really unanticipated and heartening to read their tributes such as the surprise from the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin said “Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a man of the highest international influence”. Of course, not forgetting the most surprising North Korean government sending its condolences to Singapore saying Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a close intimate friend of North Korea.
This may not really be a surprise for me as couple of years ago when I was traveling in South Korea, I was very fascinated and interested in knowing more about the history of Korean war and its tension. Therefore I signed up for the DMZ Demilitarised Zone tour between the North and South Korea. The guide told the entire group that only two countries in the world have access to North Korea, one is China which I was obviously not surprised. While I was actively guessing about the second one, perhaps Russia? Or maybe Mongolia? She caught me off guard and pointed at me by saying “Singapore!”. I literally dropped my jaw! Well, I certainly didn’t have the intention of crossing the border into North Korea that time, but I certainly appreciate how Mr Lee Kuan Yew managed to position Singapore on the international platform and developed numerous friendship and relationships. These are vital to our survivor and also indicates our social importance and standings in the world. At least I could find something in common between us, our principle in life is “better a friend than an enemy!”. What an amazing leader we had.