'Was uncalled for': India summons Singapore's envoy over PM Lee Hsien Loong's remarks in Parliament

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, February 17, 2022, 07:05 PM IST
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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong | AFP

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has summoned Singapore's envoy to India over the remarks made by the country's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament, reported India Today.

Sources told news agency ANI that "the remarks by the Prime Minister of Singapore were uncalled for. We have taken up the matter with the Singaporean side".

For the unversed, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong invoked Jawaharlal Nehru during a passionate debate in Parliament. "Most countries are founded and start off on the basis of high ideals and noble values. But more often than not, beyond the founding leaders and the pioneer generation, over decades and generations, gradually things change," Lee said on Tuesday during the debate on the Committee of Privileges' report on complaints about untruths told by former Workers' Party lawmaker Raeesah Khan.

"Things start off with passionate intensity. The leaders, who fought for and won independence, are often exceptional individuals of great courage, immense culture, and outstanding ability. They came through the crucible of fire and emerged as leaders of men and nations. They are the David Ben-Gurions, the Jawaharlal Nehrus, and we have our own too," he said.

Imbued with enormous personal prestige, they strive to meet the high expectations of their peoples to build a brave new world, and shape a new future for their peoples, and for their countries. But beyond that initial fervour, succeeding generations often find it hard to sustain this momentum and drive, Lee said.

The texture of politics changes, respect for politicians declines. After a while, the electorate comes to think this is the norm, and you cannot expect better. So, standards get debased, trust is eroded, and the country declines further, the prime minister said.

"Many political systems today would be quite unrecognisable to their founding leaders. Ben-Gurion's Israel has morphed into one which can barely form a government, despite four general elections in two years. Meanwhile, a stream of senior politicians and officials in Israel face a litany of criminal charges, some have gone to jail.

"While Nehru's India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated," Lee said.

The 70-year-old prime minister said each succeeding generation must protect and build upon the system that Singapore has inherited.

"This requires us to uphold integrity, enforce rules and standards, apply the same rules equally to everyone, make sure nobody is above the law. If we can do that - consistently, persistently, unflinchingly - then we have a shot at making things work. People can trust our leaders, our systems, and our institutions.

"Our democracy can mature, deepen and grow more resilient, as both the governed and the governing embrace and express the right norms and values. Singapore can continue to flourish. But if we allow ourselves to slacken - loosen standards here, just a bit; overlook a lie there, just this time - the virtuous cycle will stutter and start to fail," he said.

(With PTI inputs)

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