By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
An interesting story from Singapore:
There was a durian tree growing in a public area in a HDB estate.
No one was sure from where the tree had come, nor by whom it had been planted. No one actually paid any attention to it, treating it just like another tree, until one day when the tree bore the fruit and durians started to fall on the ground.
The residents started to pick the durians, even fighting for them.
Arguments began to erupt. Everyone thought he or she was most suited to harvest the durians while a handful even contested they had exclusive rights to the tree.
A said, "Measuring by the surface distance, the tree is closest to my house. It should be mine."
B said, "Measuring by the point-to-point distance, it is nearest to my house. I should be the one claiming it."
C said, "Historically, I was the first to move into this estate, so the durian tree is mine."
D said, "Based on oral history, my grandfather first discovered the tree. So it should be our family asset."
E said, "Where contribution is concerned, my dog has left behind natural fertiliser beneath the tree. It is most positively mine."
As the arguments got heated up, durian bullies began to appear, taking on anyone trying to approach the tree.
An erstwhile quiet neighbourhood became a boisterous battle ground as residents pointed fingers at one another.
Finally the government stepped in to nationalise the tree, and put it under the jurisdiction of the city council. Nevertheless, residents continued to fight over the durians.
The controversies around the durian tree reflect the squabbles now taking place over the islets in South China Sea.
These islets were existent long before any modern nation, or the human race, came into existence.
The islets are scattered in the middle of the open sea, far from the rest of the world and completely uninhabited. No countries have been particularly interested in them for a very, very long time, until modern nations started to occupy them, calling them their own for the sake of oil and gas and fishing resources.
Country C said, "XX island has been the uncontested territory of our country since time immemorial."
Country P said, "XX island is nearest to our country geographically and no other countries should attempt to put their hands on it."
Country V said, "Our forefathers were the earliest to set foot on this island. It is undeniably ours."
Country I said, "An ancient record putting the island within our territorial map is the best evidence of our possession."
Country K said, "Even the dogs on this island understand our language, attesting to the fact that it is indeed part and parcel of our civilisation."
In the end, island bullies start to appear. The country with a powerful fleet of warships would first dispatch its fleet to the disputed island to claim sovereignty, while weaker states seek the help from the Big Brother.
"Mutual development and resources sharing" is only a diplomatic discourse. Whenever there is an opportunity, any country would rush to claim sovereignty over the tiny islets.
Whomever they belong to, neither the durian tree nor the South China Sea islets will ever be able to decide for themselves.