When speaking to a group of school students about the importance of global inclusion and multilateral cooperation, perhaps it is best not to begin by less than tactfully reminding the Americans of their shortcomings. Unfortunately, the guest of honour at today’s summit dialogue, Mr Bilahari Kausikan – Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large, committed the above faux pas. Despite this, he conducted an interesting and very knowledgeable dialogue session with the other delegates. As a whole, I generally agreed with his sentiment regarding a need for pragmatism rather than an idealist approach to global diplomacy, however at times his ability to spin questions and not provide an answer, no doubt a side effect of his long, illustrious diplomatic career, shined through.
Following this lecture, we were treated to a tour of the highest level of the judicial system in Singapore, the Supreme Court. Here, we were treated to an interesting tour of the building by our very endearing guide. She certainly displayed some pride towards the power of the courts and the subsequent lack of crime in Singapore. As in any country where capital punishment is a facet of maintaining law and order, the death penalty was brought up frequently and it no doubt remained on the minds of the other delegates – it definitely preoccupied mine.
Lunch today was very similar to breakfast, which was in turn very similar to dinner the night before. I like Asian food, but i worry that the variations on rice, chicken and seafood will become too tiresome. I think a stop at the Changi Burger King might be necessary on the way home.
The culmination of today was the visit to the Istana, which means Palace. Here, we were treated to tea with the President of Singapore, H.E. Dr Tony Tan. While it is fun to joke about being best buds with numerous heads of state, the simple fact of the matter is this was an experience that I doubt that I shall ever forget. The Istana itself is a beautiful relic of British colonialism, with a sumptuous interior characterised by huge chandeliers and marble. The food was much the same as lunch, but still appreciated after the physical difficulty of the bus ride over. But of course, we were not there to eat more food than necessary and gawk at the chandeliers. Meeting His Excellency was at first intimidating – thoughts of reading of both capital and corporal punishment at the Supreme court crossed my mind – but I think everyone quickly warmed to his very un-vociferous manner.
Thus far, all of the delegates have been exceptionally kind, and it is safe to say that the Australian and English parties have enjoyed some gentle sledging.