In situations when national interests are at stake, no amount of money can buy glory, no amount of money can a small country get what it wants. I have been writing about this, that the ability to punch above one’s weight is because the other parties allowed the small country to do so. Or the small country is like the proverbial little rat standing on the head of a lion and shouting at everyone, thinking it is really powerful.
This mantra of punching above our weight is now put to test by the Indonesians. Among the haze affected countries, we have been shouting the loudest. We finally have the gut to want to pull the culprit corporations to court. This is the right thing to do, except that when the jurisdiction is transboundary, when the parties are not inside this island but in other countries, you need to measure how much power or authority you have to bring the culprits to justice. You cannot simply send a legal letter to someone and demand that he appears in your office, in your courts, in your country. Oops, you can, but whether he would appear is another issue.
If you want to punch above your weight you better know who you are dealing with. The Indonesians are furious and are reviewing all agreements with Singapore, haze related and others. This is like the Indonesians are tearing every agreement they have signed with us, or are going to tear them if they are not happy with them. And they are doing it unilaterally. They do not need to consult us and they are not going to consult us. They would only tell us what they have decided and what they want to do.
The Indonesians are telling Singapore to shut up and haze is their problem and they will deal with it the way they like it. They are saying it is none of Singapore’s business even though the haze will affect the way of life, the economy and the health of Singaporeans. Now Singapore is put in a spot. What is Singapore going to do or can do with this snub? Now is the time to mean business, to see if Singapore can really punch above its weight with a neighbouring giant.
This is a new drama that is unfolding. When a giant flexes its muscles, the small countries better take notice. Now to bring an Indonesian corporation to task, to appear in our courts, is going to be a very sensitive and touchy issue.