Singapore needs close relations with other countries. And not just for trade. They’re for peace and stability as well. That goes for our regional neighbours and global powers alike.
Good, lasting relationships are those where both parties take time to understand and see the common humanity in each other.
So, when foreign diplomats visit Singapore, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman is equally likely to host them at formal luncheons and casual home-cooked dinners at his own home.
In fact, they definitely get invited to the Minister’s Hari Raya block celebrations when it’s the season.
“Personal eight-eye” and open houses all across the street
“I think with this, you take away the formality. You tell them that I am ready for you to come to my private space,” said Minister Maliki to Berita Harian this Monday (Oct 17) about the home-cooked dinners. “If we do so, it shows them that we are ready to establish a closer, more personal relationship. “
“We say, ‘Okay, personal eight-eye. My wife and I, your spouse and you. Just us four,’” he detailed, in the same interview in Malay.
The Minister’s wife is the master chef behind these dinners, serving up Singapore-style sincerity with each dish.
“Then of course, part of it is the durian diplomacy. If it’s durian season, we can eat, we take them to sit outside,” added the Minister. “So next to the koi pond, we can eat durian for those who love durians! For those who don’t like durians, we try to figure out.”
This task is easier during Hari Raya season, thanks to the neighbours on Minister Maliki’s street.
“I adopt the concept of the Hari Raya open house like we have the Singapore open house. I invite all the ambassadors who work in Singapore to know how we celebrate Hari Raya,” said the Minister.
“They see me and my neighbours working together, having a relationship which is close, so that they can help me, allow their house to be opened as well.”
“Because my house is not very big, right?” explained Minister Maliki. “So if you want to hold an open house and invite the ambassadors, ministers from other countries, from Brunei also come, you need help from the neighbours.”
“So the whole street — open house.”
The benefits of regional stability
These open houses are also how Minister Maliki personally highlights Singapore’s stability and gotong royong DNA to foreign guests. And to complete this equation, he gets close to the ground during his own foreign diplomatic missions.
“The important thing is the peace and stability of the region,” he said. “I just spent nine days in Indonesia, attending the G20 meeting, and at the same time I visited the provinces in Indonesia.”
“Because I know that Indonesia is a big country. The important thing is for them to understand what Singapore is, what Singapore’s purpose is, and how we establish a stable situation in the region.”
“A stable region will give confidence to investors to come to this region,” explained Minister Maliki. “This stable region gives confidence that we can continue to move forward together.”
Such confidence and cooperation shows.
Indonesia is one of Singapore’s longstanding major trading partners, with bilateral trade totalling $48.8 billion in 2020. Plus, there are regular joint military exercises, like maritime ones against the pirates of the Malacca Strait.
“Our principle in Singapore is a developed neighbour is good for Singapore. A successful neighbour is good for Singapore,” said Minister Maliki.
“So we, especially in our relationship, make sure that we continue to work with them from the aspects of economy and cooperation,” he added about Indonesia-Singapore ties and about Singapore’s international relations strategy in general.
“This should be done at all times and for all, not just politicians.”
Cover photo credit: Maliki Osman Facebook and Aiva Apsite on Unsplash