Cooperation key to good relations – Kausikan

On 20 February 2019, Mr Bilahari Kausikan (Arts and Social Sciences ’76) presented the complex and sometimes tense bilateral relations Singapore has with Malaysia and Indonesia, while concisely describing the importance of understanding Singapore’s rather different relationship with each.

Kausikan was candid when describing Singapore’s sovereignty, “The governments of our neighbours deal with Singapore as a sovereign nation because we have developed capabilities,” he said.

Bilateral Relations with Malaysia

Given recent public discussions over the deferment of the Singapore-KL high-speed rail, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) over Seletar Airport and the extension of Malaysia’s port limits into Singapore waters, it was no surprise that Singapore’s bilateral relations with Malaysia took centre stage during his lecture.

Mr Kausikan cautioned against assuming recent differing opinions were solely due to the surprise election of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in Malaysia and the return of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister of Malaysia.

“We should not place too much emphasis for the current situation on PM Mahathir,” he said. “These are not new issues; they are very old issues … this is the fourth iteration.”

Mr Kausikan was optimistic the next generation of Singapore’s leadership is capable. In particular, he singled out Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat, former Principal Personal Secretary to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing’s tenure as Chief of the Army. Their vast experiences can inform Singapore’s future foreign policies.

Mr Kausikan speaking to the audience about Singapore and Malaysia-Indonesia relations.
Mr. Kausikan responding to questions with Deputy Head of Department of Political Science Assoc Prof Terence Lee.

Bilateral Relations with Indonesia

Mr Kausikan emphasized that while Singapore’s relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are similar, there are some differences.

He highlighted Indonesia under President Joko Widodo’s administration is “much more interested in domestic issues (like) alleviating poverty and doing things for his own people, (concerning himself) with foreign policy only to the degree that it contributes to that.”

Since 2014, Singapore has been Indonesia’s largest foreign investor with US$8.4 billion in realised investments in 2017 alone. Cordial bilateral relations advance Indonesia’s domestic goals while allowing Singapore access to the largest economy in ASEAN. Both are among each other’s top trading partners and source of visitor arrivals.

Importance of Regional Cooperation

He emphasized putting aside differences and cooperating whenever possible throughout the discussion. When asked about the threat of cross-border terrorism by a member of the audience, he replied the security departments of the three countries collaborated closely to ensure safety. This was a good example of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia working together towards a common goal.

“The Malaysian Special Branch, the equivalent of our ISD, is extremely professional and cooperates closely with our security authorities” he said.

Later, he recounted a 2016 incident when Indonesian authorities arrested a group of militants planning to launch rockets towards Singapore from Batam, as an example of Indonesia-Singapore addressing cross-border terrorism.

Mr Kausikan stressed that Singapore “can cooperate with our neighbours, should cooperate, and in fact must cooperate” while safeguarding and advancing national interests.

Watch the lecture here.


About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

Alumni give back — FASS Conversations: Design your Career

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Making career decisions is never easy. To partner you in this decision making process, the Centre for Future-ready Graduates, together with the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences organized the “FASS Conversations: Design your Career” talk where questions were collated from you and your peers, categorized into 3 topics and addressed by the young Alumni:

Topic 1: Value of a FASS degree- Translating NUS experience for corporate success
Topic 2: Job Search Strategy
Topic 3: School to Workplace Transition

Young Alumni with experiences across the industries of Non Profit, Industry development, Marketing, Consulting, Public Relations and Tourism were present:
– Rachel, Assistant Manager, Resource Development and Communications at World Vision
– Shawn, Co-founder and Business Lead at Monocoque Service Design
– Soo Yee, Manager, Industry and Enterprise Development Group in F&B Services in SPRING Singapore
– Amanda, Senior Executive, Resort Marketing at Resorts World Sentosa

Those who were present valued the candid sharing from the young Alumni who spoke of the importance of acquiring experiences throughout their undergraduate years, being proactive to meet and speak with people from different backgrounds. Going on Student Exchange Programmes, securing local or overseas internships, participating in hall activities, CCAs and gaining volunteering experiences are just some examples of avenues where you can gain exposure to your fields of interest and acquire soft skills. One of the unique selling points of a FASS graduates are people and communication skills and ability to offer a different perspective on the issue at hand. This puts you in a better advantage in organizations where employees are required to work in teams or brainstorm ideas to creatively solve real world problems.

Some Alumni shared that it was a natural transition for them moving into their first job as things just fell in place nicely when they were searching for their first job. Having exposure to the industry and knowing people in the field greatly helped them in their decision making process and the transition. The Alumni present also candidly shared about the toughest interviews that they went through and emphasized on the importance of not only being prepared for the interview but also having the right attitude when presenting yourself to potential employers. Sharings on work culture, the make-up of colleagues in their work places and challenges faced in their roles gave the audience fresh insights on what to expect in the real working world. The Alumni were open and generous in their personal sharing and offered valuable tips. We look forward to organizing a subsequent installment of this well-received FASS Conversations talk!

To hear from HR Managers perspective on the topics covered, we invite you to the 3rd Instalment of the HR Perspectives – Recruitment Deciphered! Talk on 6 Apr, Wed, 4-6pm.

Take a glimpse into the “behind-the-scenes” process of job applications and understand from HR’s perspectives on what makes or breaks an application.

<Click here> to sign up for the event!

Geography Major Bright Ong on puppeteering

Friday, 11 July 2014

Straits Times

Actor-puppeteer Bright Ong made a pact with his parents, after graduating from university, that he could be financially independent as an actor in two years, but managed it in half the time by eating just one or two meals a day.

The 26 year old’s love for performing was ignited when he started acting in amateur productions at university, and was trained in theatre as a member of  the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT)’s The Young Company.

FASS Mentorship Programme 2014/2015

Dear FASS students, if you are planning to graduate in 2015, this is for you!

FASS Mentorship Programme 2014/15 (FASSMP)

In this programme, you will be matched with a FASS Alumni Mentor who can lend a Helping Hand in your Transition fromUniversity to Working Life. Each student will be matched with a mentor who can provide you with career and personal development guidance over the period of 1 year (August 2014 till July 2015 – during which at least four meetings are encouraged). It is up to mentors and their mentees to decide how best to engage each other in the exchange of ideas, and sharing of experiences and knowledge; whether over a meal, involvement in seminars and event management, or office visits to understand the working environment etc. In 2013/14, 86 FASS students were enrolled in the programme.

More information about the FASSMP can be found at our website:

call for mentees poster_new deadline_25 april

U@live with Lim Siong Guan

Join us for an evening with Lim Siong Guan! – 27 March 7.30pm

The Leader, the Teacher & you: Leadership through the Third Generation
Join the former Head of the Civil Service as he invokes his many years of stewardship under three Prime Ministers to tell us about this values-based and other-centered leadership – that asserts that the greatest wealth of the first and second generations must be the third generation itself.

Details of the event are as follows:
A unique feature of U@live is that not only will it be viewed by a live audience, it will be streamed live through a dedicated website ( The event will also incorporate a new interactive application that allows users to post questions and vote for their favourite questions in real time. The event will consist of a 10-minute talk by the speaker followed by a 20-minute interview conducted by Mr Viswa Sadasivan and a 30-minute Q&A session open to the live and online audience.

Date: 27 March 2014 (Thursday)
Time: 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
(Registration at 6:45pm, Seated at 7:15pm, Cocktail reception after event)
Location: Auditorium (2nd Storey), Shaw Foundation Alumni House, National University of Singapore, 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244

We sincerely hope that you will be able to join us for this event.

Register HERE!

ualive lim siong guan