Sunday, July 09, 2006

Singapore-Malaysian relations: Time for reappraisal?

Dear friends,

Many of us have relatives in Malaysia and in fact, many Singaporeans are ex-Malaysians. I am born and bred in Singapore but have friends and relatives up north.

I am sure all readers are familiar with our two nations' chequered history (merger, explusion etc).

Fortunately, on the whole, there is no argument over the issue of sovereignty unlike in the Middle East, where the legitimacy of Israel’s existence is still questioned by some of her neighbors and numerous wars have been fought over this. And to think that Jews and Arabs were descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, the children of Abraham.

I have always thought that Malaysia would be Singapore’s most natural partner in business and other ventures. Unfortunately, there is so much apparent animosity between the two sets of political elites that nothing concrete ever gets out of the starting blocks.

As with relatives who live too close to each other, there arises from time to time, pettiness and misunderstanding over the most trivial of incidences.

The bad blood, which originated in the 60’s, makes interesting reading, but is a hindrance to any constructive dialogue. I opine that until the original players all leave the public scene, there will be no quickening of pace to come together to explore further our collective strengths.

Personally I feel that a closer economic partnership could be a win-win for both sides. Mr. Chiam See Tong ( opposition- MP for Potong Pasir) had brought this up several times, but I fear that, it may be precisely because this has been lobbied by an opposition MP that the government would at best ignore it, and at worse, ridicule Chiam as being unrealistic and naïve and that present geo-poltical tensions between the two neighbors will not allow any rapprochement. (meaning- they will ensure that any initiative remains dead in the water).

Well, some people will cut off the nose to spite the face ( or some expression like that).

What do readers think about the below proposals (about the high speed train)? Is there anything that ordinary folks like you and I can do to build bridges between Malaysians and Singaporeans? Is some form of partnership a realistic possibility in the foreseeable future and should we pursue this ( or even think about it?) ?

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

“Forget Singapore, stop at Johor”Johoreans believe Republic will probably impose expensive conditions. BernamaJul 8, 2006

Johoreans have called on YTL Corporation to revise its fast-train proposal connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as they are convinced there will be obstacles coming from the republic.
They say if the government agrees to bring up the plan for discussion with Singapore, there will be a repeat of the episode, which had brought negotiations over the Johor Causeway replacement project to a deadlock.

This is because of the republic's attitude of always demanding quid pro quo, they say.
Gelang Patang Umno division chief Abdul Aziz Sapian said he was sure Singapore would impose various conditions before agreeing to the project to ensure it obtained multiple gains from it.

"That is why we suggest to the government for the company's proposal to only connect Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baharu.

"If it were to reach Singapore, we will face various difficulties. The price to get the republic's proposal will be very expensive. Therefore, it is better that we forget Singapore's involvement," he said.

Johor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry deputy president Soh Poh Seng supported the idea of having the high-speed train ending at Johor Baharu.

He said that based on historical factors and previous experiences, Singapore was not a partner ready to cooperate, especially in projects worth billions of ringgit.

"Why should someone in Malaysia struggle to provide a service which in the end will bring benefits and profits to Singapore?" he asked.

Johor Baharu Member of Parliament Shahrir Samad, who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, recently said if efforts to get Singapore to agree took a long time, it was better for the bullet train to only connect Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baharu.

The New Straits Times last Wednesday quoted YTL Corp managing director Francis Yeoh as saying that the company planned to introduce the M$8b fast-train link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore which would cut travelling time to only 90 minutes.

Businessman Mohd Salleh Ali, 35, questioned the intention behind the project.

"With the fast-train service, will it make Johor Baharu less attractive to Singaporeans? Will their tourism money shift to Kuala Lumpur after this? These are questions that need answers," he said.

After what happened to the negotiation over the bridge project, he is sure that the republic would take advantage by imposing various conditions before agreeing to the project.

The Singapore government Thursday issued a short statement saying that it had not discussed with Kuala Lumpur over any proposal to have a fast-train service between the two countries.

There have not been any discussions between Singapore and Malaysia on YTL Corp's proposal to build a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.Bernama


Anonymous said...

Comparing the Singapore/Malaysia situation to that of Israel/Palestine is a bit of a stretch.
Oh well…

Should one really take the eternal bickering between Singapore and Malaysia seriously? Couldn’t it simply be a game being played by the powers that be to keep the public worried and occupied, to create an “enemy” where there is none?

The United States enemy “du jour” is Al-Quaida, while not so long ago it was Soviet communism. The idea is to keep the people in a constant state of fear so that the State can control and manipulate any which way it chooses.

On a lesser level, couldn’t this be why Singapore and Malaysia (and sometimes Australia) seem to be at loggerheads over so many issues, issues that don’t really matter in the long run?

Communism is now passé just as Al-Quaida will one day be and the so-called problems between Singapore and Malaysia will dissipate as well; nothing would have changed except one thing: the fear that has been created will bring about a fascist State that will provide security for “our own good”.

Just a thought…

nofearSingapore said...

I do agree that "bogeyman" whether in the guise of international communism and its domino theory; or religious extremism; or just plain unstable neighboring countries, are convenient tools used by govt's the world over when they want to "unite" their peoples against a common cause. Singapore is no exception.
In Malaysia, you know the silly season starts just around the UMNO elections when factions try to outdo themselves by being more nationalistic than the other. What better whipping boy than Singapore. I won't say that we don't deserve all of the stick as our leaders behave as if we are the best in the world and are not too immodest to let everyone know it.
I suppose such spits and spats are part & parcel of normal foreign relations and there is nothing one can do to reduce it?
Dr. Huang

John Riemann Soong said...

Singapore's culture and Malaysia's culture are quite similar. There is more in common with each other, than say, the People's Republic of China.

The issue that caused separation was racial policy, one bumiputra, one Malaysian Malaysia, but even so Singapore's racial policy is hardly satisfactory.

Hopefully this is just a sibling argument, inevitable in a family, but doesn't dilute the blood bonds any less.