S’porean activists should engage more with others: Blogger

December 21, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Mathia Lee



Blogger and social activist Ms Mathia Lee was recently in Sarajevo to attend the Swedish International Liberal Center (SILC) Activist Seminar together with Mr Priveen Suraj, President of the Young Democrats (see here). Below is an account of her visit to Bosnia and Herzegovinia.

I was very privileged and grateful to be given the opportunity to attend the recent Activist Seminar in Sarajevo, Bosnia, especially because I am an independent activist not belonging to or representing any party or organization.

Learning about the history and culture of Bosnia, and making new friends from different parts of the world, gave me the chance to revisit many issues through new lens, which I will share with you here.

Like Singapore, Sweden, is seen in a world context as being hugely progressive, a model-society. The Swedish have recognized that this can only be enhanced further by addressing any issues that may arise.

This is a learning point for me as a Singaporean coming from a Confucian tradition, where a person who offers criticism, even in a constructive manner, is often seen to be unappreciative. Instead, the Swedes have shown that constructive criticism can help a country of excellence improve further, and respond to a changing global environment using the best ideas that can be thought of.

Racial and religious harmony was a topic discussed at length, due to the racial undertone of the Bosnian-Serbian war in 1992-5, and also due to the increased migration within European countries in recent years.

A common reaction within these countries is one of fear, and that leads to misunderstanding, conflict and unfair discrimination. However, through careful analysis and discussion, one would realise a lot of discomfort can be alleviated by improving employment and resource-distribution policies to make them fairer, and this needs constant multi-sectoral dialogue.

I believe we can apply the same approach here, by first exploring ways through which locals, new immigrants and migratory workers can benefit from each other fairly, rather than opting for defensive or exploitative measures as a default.

Finally, this conference showed that international cooperation, rather than non-interference or apathy, is necessary in a globalised world. For this process to be fair and effective, the socio-cultural situation of all parties needs to be understood through dialogue.

We can contribute to this process by learning about and engaging more with the countries around us. As the diversity of peoples increases in our country, and as information from all over the world becomes increasingly accessible, we have more opportunity, and perhaps responsibility, to make a positive impact beyond our little red dot.

Mathia Lee writes her own blog at:
http://mathialee.wordpress.com