By: B. Goode
All the posturing vis-à-vis the latest Singapore-Malaysia boundary spat apparently did not have much impact on the panic-level of Singaporeans in general. The Causeway is jammed as ever. Singaporeans are still going across to Malaysia to shop till they drop, thus fueling the very economy of a country that is supposed to be threatening our sovereignty.
Khaw Boon Wan has calmed down and removed the warpaint from his face. Josephine Teo has not opened his mouth…
So yeah. There’s nothing for Singaporeans to panic. That is until it was announced that Malaysia might restrict the export of eggs and some fish.
We cowered at the reality, whilst Malaysians laughed at our fragility.
Truth be told, we are not self-sufficient in food supply. We are not self-sufficient in a single food produce. Most of our foods are imported. Most of them are from neighbouring countries. It was only 10 years ago that we were self-sufficient in eggs. Not anymore. The pressure for land to build homes and infrastructure to fit in 7 million people means whatever left of our arable lands have to make way for development.
The farms in and around Lim Chu Kang and Kranji will soon make way for Tengah Town.
The only chicken farm left will be in Geylang but those chickens don’t have eggs.
Or do they? (Insert theme from Twilight Zone).
This is the fact of life. There is nothing we can do to alleviate this problem. It’s as if we have been cursed to always be dependent on others for something as basic as food.
The government was quick to assure Singaporeans that we have other sources for our eggs and fish and that we don’t rely solely on Malaysia. That’s true. For today. When everything is peaceful and regional trade is still free.
What happen if there is a war in the region? Or, God forbids, with our neighbours? With our own hinterlands?
On our west, east and north, we are separated by less than a kilometer of water from Malaysia. On the south, Indonesia, leaving us with only a sliver of channel we call the Straits of Singapore. In a war, it will be very difficult for us to get our supplies in.
As I’ve constantly reminded Singapore’s younger generations; we might win a battle or two. But can we survive a protracted war of attrition? When we are being sieged and besieged and our food supplies being disrupted?
Can we survive on tapioca alone? Come to think of it, do we still know how to plant tapioca?
What I am saying is that; we can have the most powerful military arsenal in the region. We can have the most modern Army with the best-trained soldiers. But as long as we are totally dependent on foreign imports for our food, we will be susceptible to foreign threats to our sovereignty.
We should feel blessed that unlike countries in other parts of the world, we have giant neighbours that are benevolent that want to see us proper. Neighbours that allow us to prosper.
Considering how narrow the channels and straits dividing us with Malaysia and Indonesia are, tresspassing will occur from time to time. But do we have to rattle our sabre everytime that happens? We have to remember that they too have their own national pride. They too have their own local audience to placate.
It is good to see that cooler heads have since prevailed. Because when we are as precarious as an egg on a bull’s horn, it is much better to whisper our unhappiness into the ears of the bull, than to shout our grievances from the top of the…..bull’s horn.
We can laugh at the state of Malaysia’s military hardware; of submarines that couldn’t submerge. Of planes that couldn’t fly. Of bombs that have gone that missing.
Malaysians too can laugh at our landscape; of lush vegetation that we couldn’t eat. Of farmlands turned into concrete jungle. Of chickens that got culled……
We can rattle our state-of-the-art sabre at them. They only need to stop food exports.
So moral of the story is: