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Malaysia - Singapore Relations: Unsettled Issues And Future Prospects

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Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) has organised a seminar by Tan Sri Ab. Kadir Mohamad titled “Malaysia-Singapore Relations: Unsettled Issues and Future Prospects” on Monday, 18 May 2015. Tan Sri Ab. Kadir was the adviser for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 2003 to 2009, and writer of the book “Malaysia-Singapore Relations: 50 Years of Contention” that was published in January 2015.

Tan Sri began his lecture by revisiting the history of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in 1965 and managed to capture the audience by his brief but succinct retelling of history behind selected unsettled issues, and the lessons that Malaysia has learned from our long history of bilateral negotiations with Singapore. These include the supply of Johor water to Singapore, the unending issues with White Rock, the Malayan Railway land in Singapore, the crooked bridge to replace the causeway, the land reclamation by Singapore in the Straits of Johor, Singapore’s defence, the end of the Lee Kuan Yew era and the prospects for the next fifty years in Malaysia-Singapore relations.

Tan Sri He further stressed the importance of the mastering the English language and negotiation especially with issues such as these. He also urged the younger generation to ensure the Malaysia-Singapore partnership (Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings) not to fail to preserve the history of the Malayan Railway. He reiterated that replacing the Causeway will be advantageous to Tanjung Pelepas and other ports to compete as a trading hub. He hopes that Singapore will continually abide by the decisions made by international courts.

Tan Sri was optimistic that Singapore will be sufficient on water matters, however that also means Malaysia will no longer have the power over the issue to dictate Singapore on our terms. Singapore must also stop viewing Malaysia as a security and sovereignty threat , citing Malaysia’s racial-based political system will be a strong enough deterrent for any political leader to welcome the idea of Singapore once again joining Malaysia. He expressed his wish that Singapore will start treating Malaysia as simply another regular interlocutor in the affairs between nations, and to go against Lee Kuan Yew’s decree that “Singapore should always view Malaysia as a country for special treatment”.

In the next fifty years, Tan Sri envisioned that the fundamentals already in existentance today will help build towards a mutual beneficial cooperation: both Malaysia and Singapore are one of each other’s largest trading partner, investors and pool for tourists. He reiterated that both sides must find “win-win solutions” in all disputes, and urged for Malaysian negotiators to think and act like their Singapore counterparts. YBhg. Tan Sri expressed his wish that through the writing of his book, the mistakes and weaknesses of the last 50 years must not be repeated and jeopardises Malaysia’s national interest for 50 years to come.
Various academics and students of political science attended the session.

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Reported by:
Sharizan Laily Shaharuddin
Regional and Security Studies Division