17 September 2016
IN HIS National Day Rally speech on Aug 21, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that although Singapore-Malaysia relations are “sensitive” and “complex”, ties between both countries remain good.
He cited the settlement of the Points of Agreement (PoA) on the Railway land with his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the High-Speed Rail as examples of excellent relations between both countries.
These positive developments symbolise the marked improvement of bilateral ties since 2003. Indeed, strong political will and a new generation of leaders who are not weighed down by historical baggage have led to the best-ever period in the history of Singapore-Malaysia relations. While top leadership and personalities play a major role in shaping bilateral ties, established institutional norms of diplomacy and mutual respect for each other’s interests are necessary to ensure the continued improvement of bilateral ties.
After a painful separation in 1965, bilateral relations have experienced multiple ups and downs because of complicated differences in political ideologies and approaches to handling communalism. Singapore-Malaysia ties reached its lowest point during the second half of the premiership of then Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, both countries had many unresolved issues, such as the Pedra Branca dispute, the impasse on the implementation of the PoA, the problems over the Central Provident Fund (CPF) of Malaysians, Johor water agreements and the construction of a “scenic bridge” to replace the Causeway.
… The writer is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 19/09/2016