Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Geopolitics: Singapore refuses to sign Cluster Munitions Ban

107 nations have signed the treaty banning the "use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, and obligating them to provide victim assistance and to clear contaminated land" at Oslo (Dec 3rd 2008). (see The Cluster Munition Coalition website).

These 107 nations include Britain and most of ASEAN, the exceptions being Burma (duh?), Vietnam and ..... SINGAPORE! Not only does Singapore stockpile these weapons, we produce and we (used to) sell them! (see "Singapore opts out of cluster munitions convention but bans exports" - 27 Nov 2008).

Here's a particularly disturbing quote:

The government pointed out that a blanket ban on such weapons would be impractical, as many countries still saw the need to keep stockpiles for legitimate self-defensive purposes.

Let us take the Singapore government at its word - we're gonna use cluster munitions (many of which FAIL TO EXPLODE) on OUR OWN SOIL to deter an attack by enemy troops? So, this becomes a case of "We won't let foreign troops come in to kill Singaporeans, but we'd gladly do it to ourselves"?

Let us NOT take the government at its word. That is to say "to defend Singapore, we'd gladly use it on foreign territory to push their armies back before reaching Singapore soil". Is that right? Are we willing to clean up after the conflict? Note that the foreign ministry has not signed up to the clean-up clause of the treaty and has a self-imposed (very typically PAP) moratorium on sale.

I say without hesitation - SHAME on us if we do not turn around and recognize that these weapons are a bane to mankind whether used defensively or offensively! It is an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction. It kills during conflict and it continues to kill after conflict. In the latter case, it is the worst kind of weapon because it will kill civilians trying to return to a normal life after conflict. It will also do so regardless of nationality, regardless of who was right and who was wrong, regardless of "who started it". I shudder to think of the Singapore military using it on Singapore soil to repel invaders. Very frankly, I would rather lose the war and rely on the UN to force an invader to leave rather than to inflict, on my own people, such a price for driving an enemy away. We have many other deterrents - we already have one of the larger, sophisticated and well-trained military forces in the region.

At the VERY LEAST, we need to pressure our government to sign up to the clean-up clause ... that if we EVER find the need to use this weapon, we commit ourselves to cleaning up after. This will at least give impetus for us to actually make sure the munitions truly have the "low failure rate" claimed by manufacturers but constantly debunked by realities in a real war where these weapons are used.

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