Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Leaving no man behind- what Singapore can learn from Israel

Dear Friends,

By the time the reader reads this, a certain Israeli soldier by the name of Gilad Shalit   (click here) would be reunited with his family after spending more than five years as a prisoner in enemy territory.

Shalit was a 19 year-old Israel Defence Force (IDF) corporal of dual Israeli and French nationalities who was abducted by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006. These militants infiltrated an Israeli army post via an underground tunnel and after a gunfight during which 2 militants and 2 IDF soldiers were also killed,  Shalit was abducted after his tank was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

From then on, he was no more than a bargaining chip in a high-stakes game.

After protracted negotiations through Egyptian intermediaries, Israel finally relented and agreed to release about 1000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, now 25. (read here)

We may not agree with all of Israel’s policies as she tries to survive in a “tough neighbourhood” as best as she could and some of us may not even agree with this prisoner exchange, but by her persistent efforts to secure Shalit’s release ( diplomatic as well as covert means) there is little doubt that Israel treasures each and every one of her citizens. No more words from any Israeli politician are needed- each IDF soldier knows that he or she will not be forgotten. Phua Chu Kang would have said, “It’s double confirmed!”

As we hear our MP’s talk about a “new normal” in the local political equation, we get a sense that our government wants to assure Singaporeans that they will always come first in all of its policy deliberations and that if they had reasons to feel neglected in the past, changes will be made to prevent such occurences.

 However, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently published a report which shows the bottom 20 per cent of working Singaporeans’ pay stagnate over the last 10 years! (read here)

Hence, I would understand why many lower income Singaporeans may not be as trusting towards the government as Shalit and his fellow citizens in an equally small nation, half a world away.  

 The government has its work cut out for itself, before we will wholeheartedly believe that Singapore will always look after all its own and that she will never “leave any man behind”.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan