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Mon, Feb 07, 2011
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Lessons to learn from Egypt protests

By Gerrard Lai

THERE are lessons Singapore can learn from the ongoing protests in Egypt, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC George Yeo said yesterday.

"Unless you adjust to changes in the world, changes will be forced upon you, in a way that doesn't give you time to prepare," he said.

Contrasting Egypt and Singapore, he added: "Egypt is by far the largest Arab country and has an intellectual and cultural position second to none... When the changes come, it's a big tremor."

For a small country like Singapore, "it is always better to make adjustments the way we've done...adjusting to new technologies; adjusting to globalisation".

Minute adjustments, while uncomfortable, may be better than holding things off until, one day, it becomes a very big change, he said.

The latest reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that 225 Singaporeans, including 190 students, have returned to Singapore.

The Singapore Embassy in Cairo will maintain contact with the few who remain in Egypt to provide necessary consular assistance.

Mr Yeo was speaking at the Fish for Luck 2011 ceremony held on the floating deck in Bedok Reservoir, where a "new lease of life" was given to some 1,188 gouramis yesterday.

During the Chinese New Year event, the fish were released into the water as a symbolic gesture for life and luck.

The event, organised by the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Citizens' Consultative Committee and Shops Sub Committee, was held in consultation with the national water agency PUB.

Commenting on the sidelines of the event, Mr Yeo said about Egypt: "We've no influence over unfolding events (there), we will observe and monitor the impact on peace in that region. Naturally, we're on the side of those who want peace, who want a better life for their people."

Speaking about the impact the Egyptian protests would have on the world and Singapore, he noted that the immediate economic effects would be higher oil prices.

"It's like a tax on the global economy and this has immediate implications on everybody."

"In the longer term, what's happening in Egypt will affect the entire Arab world... There's an added implication of the Palestinian question and the peace in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbours."

Mr Yeo said he hoped that the transition in Egypt would be a peaceful one, and that all groups in the country would act with wisdom and not be too impatient.

"You can't have dramatic change overnight. It is a big country, over 80 million people, so the transition has...to be carefully done, so that it will be peaceful and the lives of ordinary people will not be adversely affected."


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