SINGAPORE — Singapore’s vote in favour of the United Nations resolution to protect civilians and uphold legal and humanitarian obligations amid conflict in the Gaza Strip is a “major vote”, with the country taking a clear stand and expressing its concerns at the grave situation on the ground, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Sunday (Oct 29).
“The resolution expressed grave concern at the escalation of violence since Oct 7. It called for immediate, durable, sustained humanitarian truce, leading to a cessation of hostilities. And it called for immediate, continuous and unhindered provision of essential supplies to the civilians in Gaza,” he said.
“And it called for Israel to rescind its evacuation order in the Gaza Strip, and it rejected the forced transfer of Palestinians and reaffirmed that the solution to the conflict should be through a peaceful two-state solution.”
Mr Shanmugam was speaking to the media on Sunday on the sidelines of a ground-up interfaith joint humanitarian relief effort organised by Humanity Matters, a non-profit organisation, where volunteers were gathered to pack relief supplies to be delivered to the displaced civilians of Gaza.
In reiterating Singapore’s support for the UN resolution, Mr Shanmugam highlighted two areas which the resolution should have mentioned.
“One, we must still condemn the terrorist attack by Hamas on Oct 7 which cannot be justified; and two, we need to note also Israel’s right to self-defence, but that right to self-defence cannot include indiscriminate killing of civilians and must be done in accordance with international law,” he said.
Israel has tightened its blockade and bombarded Gaza for three weeks since the Islamist group Hamas’ devastating Oct 7 attack. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed in the deadliest day of the nation’s 75-year history, Israeli authorities said.
Medical authorities in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of 2.3 million people, said 7,650 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s campaign to obliterate the Iran-backed militants.
On Saturday, Mr Shanmugam had met more than 200 Malay-Muslim community leaders in a closed-door meeting, where he spoke about Singapore’s position on the conflict.
“What has been Singapore’s position? We have said, and we have voted against illegal settlements by Israel – we said that it was contradictory to the international law. We have voted against Jerusalem being the capital of Israel,” he said.
“But at the same time, we have always also supported Israel’s right to exist, whereas Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map. So there are a number of perspectives to this, and the community leaders understood.”
Mr Shanmugam was also asked about an online post that says that while public rallies have been disallowed by the authorities, there are still posts online that advocate for the cause.
“On rallies in Hong Lim (Park), we disallowed on public order reasons. Remember, rallies can be done by, if we allow one group, we have to allow other groups. And different religious groups wanted to hold rallies,” he said.
“We took the decision that we will not allow rallies by anyone. We don’t want to import foreign arguments into Singapore.”
He acknowledged that there is a strong need and desire in the community to do something, but there are ways to do this constructively and by making Singapore’s position known internationally.
He also added that people are entitled to to express their views online, but it must not cross into incitement or hate speech against other religions and other races.
Asked about posts by the Israeli Embassy that could be advocating for a cause, Mr Shanmugam said: “We don’t take lightly any foreign interference in our domestic policies. We expect any ambassador or embassy to respect the way things are done in Singapore.”
LOCAL HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS
Mr Shanmugam told the media that Humanity Matter’s relief supplies packing session on Sunday was the second humanitarian event that he has attended in two days.
The first was the launch of a month-long campaign in Nee Soon to collect supplies and donations to help people in Gaza, which has already amounted to just under S$30,000.
Mr Shanmugam said that seeing over 100 volunteers on Sunday come together regardless of race, language or religion showed a strong desire in the community to help.
“This is unique about Singapore. Everyone comes together to help even though they know most of the help goes towards Muslims in Gaza. They need help, we do what we can,” he said.
The relief supplies packed on Sunday include 10,000 packs of intravenous fluids and infusion sets, 5,000 collapsible jerry cans, painkillers and vitamins.
The relief cargo, with a value of S$215,000, is scheduled to be airlifted on Oct 31 to Cairo, Egypt and later transferred via land to Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.