TROTTED to Kinokuniya for the meet-the-author (idol) session on a sleepy Saturday. Got there slightly after 2pm, Bilahari was already speaking as I tucked myself at the corner of the crowd of 60.
This is my first time hearing him speak in person, he was in his usual no nonsense style, even poking fun at an ex-colleague – this ex-colleague asked what the book was about and Bilahari said: “this book is about you lah, I want to tell everyone here about you.” I burst out LOL.
Below are some pointers I took down using my iphone 7, read at your own peril. Accuracy varies.
The next thing I heard was his comment on Singapore’s foreign policy. Singapore can only take on an omni-direction foreign policy. We cannot insolate ourselves from the external environment, so we need to understand it so as to be taken unaware or manipulated. The master says it all.
Asked about his MFA days, Bilahari said that he dealt with a lot of idiots! Haha, This old man!!! He added that he met a lot of diplomats, mainly fun and forgotten to leave.
On whether he reads all the articles shared on FB, his reply was yes. “I read very fast and it takes me 2-3 minutes. Articles you find online are usually very short these days.”
On the victor for US presidential elections – no one knows eh. The only clear thing is it a transactional approach. Bilahari also mentioned that a Trump victory is possible though difficult.
On whether ASEAN being disjointed, he pointed out that ASEAN could only not agree on on thing, which is SCS. SCS is a proxy for US-China competition, a big boys game. He added that ASEAN is about coming together to build economies, and shared the thorny history of SEA. In 1967, Singapore got separated from Malaysia, Indonesia launched konfrontasi against Malaysia and SG, Philippines claims on Sabah. I really like the way how he used history to explain the ASEAN question.
Bilahari also used weather as an interesting analogy. Certain things are like weather, it will influence you. What we can do is to get an umbrella and keep it handy.
Subsequently, I queued for a good 15 minutes to meet the author. After getting my book autographed, he told the couple behind me to wait a while, otherwise terrible things will happen as he had to go to the loo. LOL.
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