We now know that the European Ambassadors in Singapore still read The Straits Times.
Not one, but two European ambassadors in Singapore were not too pleased with an excerpt of a speech by Ambassador-at-Large and public intellectual Bilahari Kausikan that was republished in The Straits Times on May 4.
Bilahari argued for a practical not ideological approach to human rights.
This was what Bilahari said to the French in his speech:
- France has "hobbled itself by its own absolutist belief systems". It "was unable to admit that some values cannot be simultaneously realised and therefore need at least some degree of restraint to be enjoyed at all".
- France paid dearly for persisting in the delusion that all of its citizens shared the same belief in the universality and pre-eminence of certain rights or values.
And this was what Bilahari told the Europeans:
- Europe is tying itself into knots by clinging to systems of values; systems based on an extreme ideological conception of the universality of rights taken to ridiculous lengths. These thinking are out of sync with societies evolving under demographic or other pressures.
- The result? The revival of fascism or extreme right-wing political movements.
- Unfortunately, European elites are not prepared to confront a redefinition of the conception of Europe and what it means to be European.
Ouch. And ouch.
European Union Ambassador to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch and French Ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret decided to publish a forum letter to rebut our diplomat who just dished out some undiplomatic hard truths.
Below is the joint reply published on May 9:
A summary of what they said:
- They argued that Bilahari was disingenuous to lump the mode of thought by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy murderers and victims together by saying that the extremists are misguided.
- They added that France has constraints in place against the abuse of freedom of speech since 1881.
- They also said that the EU does not make use of its position as the world's largest donor of development aid, presumably to pursue their thoughts regarding the freedom of speech.
And here is Bilahari having the last word three days later on May 12:
- He pointed out that there is a stark inconsistency that the French state throws its weight against the discrimination of Jews but not Islam in the name of freedom of speech.
- He also highlighted that the letter by the ambassadors did not address his point that Europe has taken freedom of speech to ridiculous extremes.
- He concluded that this extreme ideology of freedom of speech needs to be exposed. Because Amos Yee.