Bilahari made permanent representative to the UN

SINGAPORE’S former Ambassador to Russia, Mr Bilahari Kausikan, has been appointed the Republic’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Mr Bilahari, who succeeds Mr Chew Tai Soo who returned in April, said that, as Singapore’s UN envoy, he would have to engage in a “different kind of diplomacy”, being in a multilateral forum.

“It is a challenge for me,” he said in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday. He said his priority in the UN would be to promote and protect Singapore’s national interests, one of which was to strengthen the world body.

“We are a small country. We are a law-abiding country. It is in our interest to try and strengthen the UN,” he said, adding that he would continue to build on the work of his predecessors in this area.

He said that Singapore could play an active role in the UN despite the Republic’s small size and the realities of international politics where larger countries still had more influence.

He said Singapore had taken part in a number of peacekeeping operations despite its limited resources and played an active role in the UN conferences on the Law of the Sea and on Environment and Development.

In line with the Republic’s interest in strengthening the UN, he noted that Mr Chew, who is now Deputy Secretary (International) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was one of the vice-chairmen of a working group on reforming the UN Security Council.

Asked to comment on Singapore’s application to be a non-permanent member of the council for the period 2001 to 2002, he said: “We think we can bring a certain unique perspective to the Security Council that would be constructive and helpful.”

He noted that the Republic also had a role in UN financial matters through its representative in a committee dealing with contributions to the world body.

Describing the current financial indebtedness of the UN as “serious”, he said Singapore was one of the few countries which paid its contributions in full and on time.

He said the “much maligned organisation” could not “be better or worse than its members allowed it to be”.

“The real question is whether we can do without the UN. The answer is no, particularly for a small country like Singapore,” he said.

Mr Bilahari leaves for New York tomorrow to take up his appointment as envoy to the UN and also High Commissioner to Canada, resident in New York.

An MFA spokesman said yesterday that an “announcement would be made in due course” on Mr Bilahari’s replacement as Singapore’s Ambassador to Russia.

He was in Russia from March 1994 to April this year.

Mr Bilahari was formerly Press Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister and MFA spokesman. He has also served in Washington.

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