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Singapore showed clear stand on Israel-Hamas conflict in vote supporting UN resolution: Shanmugam

Straits Times | 30 October 2023

SINGAPORE - Singapore took a clear stand and expressed its concerns on the grave situation in Gaza by supporting a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday.

The Republic on Friday cast a “very major vote” in support of a non-binding resolution drafted by the Arab states, which received 121 votes in favour, 14 against and 44 abstentions.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Mr Shanmugam noted that the resolution – titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” – had called for a truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.

It also called for an immediate and unhindered provision of essential supplies to civilians in Gaza, for Israel to rescind its evacuation orders in the Gaza Strip, and rejected the forced transfer of Palestinians.

The resolution also reaffirmed that the solution to the conflict should be through a peaceful two-state solution, Mr Shanmugam said at an event organised by non-profit organisation Humanity Matters to pack medical and relief supplies for people in Gaza.

Singapore’s position on the conflict was made clear by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong some days ago, and the UN resolution is consistent with the position that the Republic has taken over 50 years, Mr Shanmugam said.

He added: “But, while we voted in support of the resolution, we did not think it comprehensively set out the whole picture.”

There are two areas the resolution should have mentioned, he said.

“We must still condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas on 7 October, which cannot be justified, and we need to note also Israel’s right to self-defence, but that right to self-defence cannot include indiscriminate killing of civilians, and it must be done in accordance with international law.”

When asked about some posts by the Israeli Embassy that could be advocating for a cause, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore does not take any foreign interference in its domestic politics lightly.

“Our position is quite clear. We expect any ambassador or embassy to respect the way things are done in Singapore,” he added.

“So, we do track closely what foreign missions say and do here, and whenever necessary, we will speak firmly to them, to make our position clear. We have done so before, and if need be, we will do so again.”

Turning to why the authorities have disallowed public rallies at Hong Lim Park relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict on public order reasons, Mr Shanmugam said that if Singapore allows one group to hold rallies, it must allow other groups to do so as well.

For example, religious groups like Muslim and Christian organisations have wanted to hold rallies, he said.

“We took the decision that we will not allow rallies by anyone. We don’t want to import foreign arguments into Singapore.”

On online advocacy, he said people are entitled to express their views as long as online posts do not ask people to take up arms, do bad things, or incite violence or hate speech against other religions and races.

On Saturday, Mr Shanmugam held a closed-door meeting with more than 200 Malay/Muslim community leaders to explain the Government’s position on the matter.

He noted there has been a lot of misinformation and disinformation about the situation and the Government’s position.

On a two-state solution, he said: “We have voted against illegal settlements by Israel – we said it was contradictory to the international law. We have voted against Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.”

At the same time, Singapore has always supported Israel’s right to exist, whereas Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map, Mr Shanmugam said.

He said the Government will try to explain the situation and stance to the Singapore community as a whole.

Acknowledging the strong need and desire in the community to do something about the situation, he said efforts such as the one on Sunday to send supplies to people in Gaza are constructive ways to help. Another way is to make Singapore’s position known internationally, like the way the country voted at the UN, he added.

Humanity Matters brought together 100 volunteers from different faith organisations to pack medical and relief supplies worth $215,000. The event on Sunday took more than four hours. Four volunteers will make their way to Rafah city in the southern Gaza strip this week to deliver eight tonnes of supplies to displaced civilians of the conflict.

On Saturday, residents in Nee Soon GRC launched a month-long campaign to collect supplies and donations to help people in Gaza. The campaign has collected just under $30,000 so far.

Taoist Mission secretary-general Tay Hung Yong was one of the volunteers on Sunday packing supplies such as IV fluid bags, painkillers and collapsible jerrycans for water storage.

He said: “Many people there are suffering, and not many of us can be there in person, so we are contributing in every little way we can.

“Through these initiatives, we hope to enhance inter-faith understanding. We are all one people, regardless of faith, and we should show that through our actions.” human resource head Sairah Elley said: “It is quite ingrained in Singaporeans to help those in need, regardless of race, language or religion. It’s a humanitarian crisis. I think what is happening is really sad, and we need to let Palestinians know that they have people on the outside who are trying to help, and that they are not alone.

“It’s quite (an) emotional (experience) actually, and I’ve been very overwhelmed the entire morning working alongside everyone.”


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