chapter  4
34 Pages

The frightened country and the geopolitics of insecurity

Insecurity and national identity Singapore’s national identity has been strongly shaped by a crisis discourse centred on the struggle for survival and security. This discourse is geared towards reminding Singaporeans of the vulnerabilities associated with being a predominantly Chinese city-state surrounded by larger, densely populated, resource rich and potentially hostile Malay states. The acrimonious nature of Singapore’s merger and separation from Malaysia, continued reliance on neighbouring countries for even the most basic of necessities such as water and food, experience of Indonesia’s lowintensity Konfrontasi military campaign1 and communal riots in the 1950s and 1960s, and persistence of regional ethno-nationalist sentiments have contributed to the PAP leadership’s acute insecurity. These factors have, according to Deck, ‘created a near paranoid cluster of communal security attitudes in Singapore’ (Deck, 1999: 251). Driven by these insecurities, survival has become a ‘one word political slogan’ that has underpinned the PAP’s reading of Singapore’s many national challenges (Deck, 1999: 251; Chan, 1971: 48).