KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 – A flurry of visits between leaders from Malaysia and Singapore, beginning with the Prime Minister’s trip to the republic next week could result in landmark moves to bring Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) services to Iskandar as well as simplify border controls between both countries.
Government officials also believe that there could be progress in getting Singapore to support Malaysia’s plan to build a straight bridge to replace the Causeway, connecting Johor and Singapore. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and a delegation of ministers are scheduled to visit Singapore on Thursday.
He is due to have a discussion with Singapore’s Premier Lee Hsien Loong.
In early June, Singapore’s veteran leader Lee Kuan Yew is expected to make one of the longest visits he has ever made to Malaysia.
Over 10 days, the Mentor Minister will visit Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan and several
He will meet politicians, editors and touch base with old friends in what is shaping up to be a trip down memory lane for the 85-year-old leader.
Malaysian government officials expect Lee Hsien Loong to visit Kuala Lumpur by the middle of the year.
Ties between both countries improved during the Abdullah administration after a testy period when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the prime minister but there remains deep suspicion among segment of Malaysians, particularly Umno politicians, over Singapore.
Some of this visceral sentiment is the result of historical baggage and a knot of unresolved bilateral issues while some of the antipathy is the result of intense competition between the two countries over the years, which has overflowed into the public domain.
But Najib after taking over as PM in April has made clear to government officials that he wants Malaysia to have a constructive relationship with all its neighbours and believes that Singapore can play a strong catalyst role in Iskandar Malaysia, one of the country’s new growth corridors.
The Malaysian PM also does not believe that it would help the country’s long-term economic and strategic interest if it allowed historical baggage to shape its foreign policy.
This less confrontational approach will underpin the administration’s move to upgrade its relations with the United States, a top partner in trade but a combatant on issues of human rights and Palestine.
Najib’s decision to strengthen ties with Singapore could upset Tun Mahathir. The former prime minister has been a trenchant critic on Singapore’s influence in Iskandar, saying that the project in Johor was a platform for Singapore to expand its sovereignty.
“In the end, the area in the Iskandar Malaysia will be filled with Singaporeans and populated with only 15 per cent Malays,” he said at a forum in May last year. He has also been campaigning for a revival of the plan to build a half-bridge, arguing that Malaysia does not need the permission of the republic to build in its own territory.
Several government officials told the Malaysian Insider that the government’s position is that if Iskandar is to become a global metropolis then all foreign investors must be encouraged to pour funds into the region or set up businesses.
And this welcoming approach should be the same for all foreign investors, regardless of whether they are from the Gulf Cooperation Countries or Singapore.
Singapore has indicated that it was keen to be involved in one or two iconic projects in Iskandar. More information on these projects could be released during the next few weeks.
Source : The Malaysian Insider