Governments must adapt to changing operating environment: K Shanmugam

The issue of good governance has become a more pressing challenge. 

And nations all over the world including Singapore and Thailand must adapt to the changing operating environment. 

Making the point were the Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Thailand who were co-officiating the 11th Coordinating Meeting of the Civil Service Exchange programmes between both countries. 

Thailand and Singapore are very old friends, says Mr Shanmugam. 

He adds that the bilateral ties are underpinned by shared political, strategic and economic interests. 

"These exchanges form the foundation of our people-to-people ties. Our people know each other well. Our students have also developed a better understanding of each other's countries, cultures and traditions through our school-twinning programmes and student exchanges." 

Echoing Mr Shanmugam's point was Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul who adds that Singapore-Thailand bilateral ties are special.

"First, it is free from any historical baggage which allows us to sustain and further build on our cooperation without impediments. Second, it is based on a common vision of looking beyond our bilateral ties by making (the) best use of our bilateral coperation to support the broader regional interest of an ASEAN community." 

Both Foreign Ministers also commented on the latest development in the South China sea dispute - the decision of the Philippines to initiate an arbitration action against China. 

They emphasised that all parties should pursue peaceful means to settle the dispute and Mr Surapong says he expects the matter to be discussed during the next Senior Officials Meeting or SOM between ASEAN and China in March.

"In this regard, Thailand as the country coordinator will carry out close consultation with all parties concerned. So I have instructed my Permanent Secretary as SOM Leader to pursue this consultation with China, the Philippines and other parties concerned." 

Mr Shanmugam stressed Singapore's position on the matter. 

"Every country in ASEAN decides on its own national policies, what are in its own interests and decides whether it is voting records in the United Nations or specific issues and ASEAN doesn't seek to control national decisions. That's why you have to distinguish between specific decision by any particular country and an ASEAN decision. ASEAN's decision has been set out in the six-point principles. It's a Filipino decision and I am sure they have looked up where their national interests are, I can't comment because I am not privy enough to the facts and basis to which the claim is made I am sure they have studied it. In broad terms ASEAN's position which Singapore has also put forward is that we should all avoid heightening tensions. We should try and deal with this in a way that reduces tensions in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and avoid taking provocative actions."

-By S Ramesh