Ukraine President Quotes LKY In Speech, Shows How S’pore’s Stance Towards War Follows His Principles

Ukraine President Quotes LKY’s 1966 Speech, Ties It To Importance Of International Law

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb, many countries across the world have condemned the war and taken actions against Russia.

Despite being a small country, Singapore has also imposed sanctions on Russia.

Some might wonder why we’re taking sides against the largest country in the world.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has explained this quite succinctly by quoting our late founding father Lee Kuan Yew in a speech.

Source: IISS on YouTube

With his well-chosen quote, he illustrated how our stand is in line with principles that Mr Lee espoused many years ago.

Ukraine President gives special address

Mr Zelensky made a special address via video link on Saturday (11 Jun) to the Shangri-La Dialogue, currently being held in Singapore.

Considering his country is now at war, he could only address the 575 delegates from 40 countries from a “secret location” in his capital Kyiv, according to The Straits Times (ST).

Source: IISS on YouTube

However, he was typically robust in his criticism of Russia during his 12-minute speech at Asia’s top security summit, speaking in Ukrainian with translations in four languages.

Russia discarding international law: Zelensky

Mr Zelensky accused Russia of discarding “the system of international law” with his invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow intends to turn time back to the 19th century, he said, when “it was impossible to ensure the harmonious development and well-being for billions of people”.


This is evident as, he added,

Russia strives to render it impossible for a neighbouring country which it regards solely as its colony to be able to exist freely and independently.

Ukraine President quotes LKY

Extending the theme of international law, Mr Zelensky reminded the Singapore audience of what someone we “know very well” — Mr Lee Kuan Yew — had once said,

If there had been no international law and the big fish ate a small fish and the small fish ate shrimps, we would not have existed.

Source: Facebook

The Ukrainian President described the words by Mr Lee as “wise”, adding that the Singapore founding father was “perspicacious enough to see the clear reasons of many things and processes and who knew exactly what is of value”.

Watch Mr Zelensky’s full speech below:

LKY made this analogy in 1966

Singaporeans might be curious about when Mr Lee said those words.

He actually made the analogy during a meeting at the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) on 15 Jun 1966 — almost 56 years to this day.

His speech was titled “Big and Small Fishes in Asian Waters”, and he made use of the Chinese proverb,

Big fish eat small fish; small fish eat shrimps.

Comparing Singapore to a shrimp in the international community, he said that we at least had to be poisonous shrimp.

Thus, to survive alongside big and small fishes we have to build our defences or form alliances with more powerful nations.

A transcript of his speech can be read here.

Analogy brought full circle

Mr Zelensky tying Mr Lee’s analogy in with international law brings it full circle.

By doing so, he highlighted a key reason for Singapore’s strong stance against Russia’s invasion.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan explained in Parliament that it’s primarily because it’s a violation of international norms — we can’t accept one country attacking another without justification.

This is especially important as we’re a tiny country — i.e. a shrimp — and it’s all the more important to stand up for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also emphasised our staunch support for international law during a visit to the United States (US), saying,

The sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, big and small, must be respected.

Ukraine President quotes LKY & continues lovefest

The Ukrainian President’s quoting of Mr Lee also continues the recent lovefest between our countries.

We won’t forget the hug shared bwtween Ukraine’s United Nations (UN) representative and Singapore’s ambassador at the UN General Assembly on 28 Feb.

The Ukraine rep also voiced his appreciation for Singapore’s help over Twitter, quoting our anthem Majulah Singapura.

He also shared a photo of himself in front of the Singapore Permanent Mission to the UN, lit up with the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Source: Sergiy Kyslytsya on Twitter

During a press conference addressing reporters outside the building for the UN, he once again expressed gratitude towards Singapore, adding,

Go to the mission of Singapore at night and look at the Ukrainian colours. Small nation… brave as a tiger.

Mr Lee’s principles still relevant in 2022

It’s gratifying that the words of our founding father are remembered more than seven years after his death.

They’re even being used by a world leader to describe a very real and important global crisis.

Their usage in 2022 shows how Mr Lee’s principles are still relevant and applicable to current affairs.

And they’re also the perfect way to explain why Singapore’s stance towards the war is necessary.

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at news@mustsharenews.com.

Featured image adapted from The International Institute for Strategic Studies on YouTube and Remembering Lee Kuan Yew on Facebook.

Jeremy Lee

Analog person making do with a digital world.

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