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The young must be taught importance of close ties with neighbouring states

The young must be taught importance of close ties with neighbouring states

I refer to the report “Jokowi to visit Singapore to celebrate 50 years of ties” (Sept 6).

Ties between neighbours are important. Though we have the Association of South-east Asian Nations to cement links, that is not enough. Singapore must cultivate close relations especially with those nearest us.

Using the analogy of a mouth, if we are the tongue, then Malaysia and Indonesia are the upper and lower teeth. It is vital that the tongue and the teeth have good coordination while talking.

There is a tremendous amount of interaction among these countries, so anyone who thinks close ties are unimportant is wrong. I worry, however, that young Singaporeans think that way.

They have lived and are still living a more peaceful life than their parents did. As citizens, they are not so experienced and have not seen the turbulence of the past.

While problems with our neighbours identical to the past are unlikely in today’s sociopolitical climate, relations can turn ugly if something serious crops up and there is insufficient goodwill between citizens of the countries concerned.

In this age of fake news on the Internet — and young Singaporeans are prone to being the victims, as they feed on social media — unrest in Indonesia could affect locals here if someone exploits the issue.

It probably would be contained today, given the ballast provided by older citizens who are more worldly-wise. I am not sure if that will be the case when young Singaporeans and Indonesians rule in future.

There must be understanding between the citizens of both countries so that they do not pander to conspiracy theories or misinformation, and I wish to propose some ideas for how to promote goodwill.

For example, we could tap nature through an association endorsed by the diplomatic office of each country, consisting mainly of young Singaporeans and Indonesians, to facilitate environmental exchanges.

In Singapore, the office could be on Pulau Ubin, where our flora and fauna thrives. Despite urbanisation, we boast abundant biodiversity, even on our mainland.

Members from each country could include some scholars, who may become important persons in future. They could, at the government level or in commerce, moderate any conflict that breaks out between both nations.

Friendly games, outings and other activities would supplement present undertakings that have been organised in this vein, except that the emphasis should be on young Singaporeans and Indonesians this time round.

Our young must cultivate bonds with their neighbours the way Mr Lee Kuan Yew did when he was young.