Relationship with Malaysia

MP Sylvia Lim

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): Chairman, I note the recent visit to Singapore by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The event marks a new chapter in relations across the Singapore Strait, one where our two countries can perhaps continue putting down some of the historical baggage accumulated over the years.

I am heartened by the fact that Singapore and Putrajaya are moving ahead on such issues as management of the Flight Information Region, development of the Rapid Transit System and reducing congestion along the Causeway. There will also be a Leaders’ Retreat later this year.

Singapore and Malaysia share many things. The histories of our countries are deeply intertwined, family and social ties link our societies. We are consistently among each other’s largest trading partners and Singapore is one of the main sources of Foreign Direct Investment into Malaysia – in fact, second largest in 2021.

The Singaporean and Malaysian governments often collaborate on external issues of mutual concern. We do so in several ways, bilaterally, through ASEAN, or as part of groupings, like the Five Power Defence Arrangements and Strait of Malacca Patrols.

Amid the COVID-19 restrictions, Singaporeans discovered how important Malaysian workers are to our economy, just as Malaysian food products are an integral part of our diet. Cultural and social currents often flow both ways across our borders as well.

As neighbours that are geographically right next to each other, there will be differences from time to time. Historically, this included differences over water supply, something that Singapore’s diversification of national taps may be helping to alleviate. Then, there are disputes over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, which both sides resolved through arbitration at the International Court of Justice. Also appearing as occasional points of disagreement are maritime delimitation, the effects of land reclamation, as well as flight paths for military and civil aircraft. Generally, both sides seek to address differences professionally and respect the arbitral processes in which they agree to participate.

I would like to ask the Foreign Minister how the Government intends to further consolidate and build on the Singapore-Malaysia relationship and develop new areas for mutually beneficial cooperation at both the official and unofficial levels. We would, of course, bear in mind the potential for political instability in Malaysia.

What are the areas he seeks to explore either bilaterally with the Malaysian government or even unilaterally, beyond those covered during Datuk Seri Anwar’s recent visit? Are there any timelines for these proposals or projects? What are the communication channels to prevent the escalation of differences, to ensure calm and professional management and resolution of differences as and when they arise?

Sir, whatever our differences, Malaysia is our closest neighbour. This bilateral relationship is one we must manage effectively in an increasingly contested and uncertain world. I ask the Foreign Minister to lay out the Government’s perspective.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
27 February 2023

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