Malaysia-Singapore Relations: Issues and Strategies

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MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE RELATIONS: ISSUES AND STRATEGIES
By
Rusdi Omar
Universiti Utara Malaysia/ Adelaide University
rusdiomar@uum.edu.my
rusdi.omar@student.adelaide.edu.au
ABSTRACT
Malaysia and Singapore relations are unique and special due to factors such as geography, history, politics, ideology, economy, culture and ethnicity. These factors sometimes have created tensions between both countries. Thus, this paper will analyze the current major issues, such as the price of raw water, the status of Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca), Malayan Railway (KTM) Land in Singapore and the status of CIQ facilities in Tanjong Pagar, the repatriation from Singapore of pension funds of Malaysia employees, the use of Malaysian airspace by Republic of Singapore Air Force jets, replacement of the Johor Causeway and the Singapore’s land reclamation work, which distressing Malaysia-Singapore relations and try to find how to manage them for the benefit of both countries, in other word, based on the principles that would lead to “win-win” situation. Several strategies/efforts in improving and solving the bilateral relations between both countries will be discussed in this paper. Lastly, this paper will examine the state of bilateral relations between two countries in the current situation and their prospect in the new millennium

INTRODUCTION
Malaysia and Singapore relations are unique and special due to factors such as geography, history, politics, ideology, economy, culture and ethnicity. These factors sometimes have created tensions between both countries. The uniqueness of the relationship is perhaps reflected by the various terms used to describe the state of rivalry between the two countries such as “Siamese twins”, “sibling rivalry” or “family quarrel”, suggesting a complex love-hate relationship that has grown out of a shared common history and cultural background, coloured by political differences and, ironically, by economic competition and interdependency.

They have emphasized from time to time their economic interdependence and defence indivisibility. Even though they have been characterized by competition in economic and social matters, because of a very high level of economic interdependence as major trading partners, the geographical proximity of the two causeway neighbours have made their economic, security, and prosperity indivisible.

Since Singapore’s independence from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Malaysia has been described as symbiotic and interdependent. However, this mutually beneficial relationship has been marred by a number of problems that threaten this cooperation. In explaining this relationship, the then- Singapore First Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says:

`its relationship with Malaysia was one of its most important and complex foreign relations’.

Whereas, the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir remarked that: `It’s impossible to be friendly with Singapore because of the neighbouring city states unfriendliness towards Malaysia. Singapore gets into that kind of mood that they reject anything that comes from Malaysia. We try to be as friendly as possible but it’s impossible’.

Despite the inherent tensions between Singapore and Malaysia, their inter-connected histories resemble the complex relationship of `inseparable twins’.5 There are various underlying reasons for this alternating relationship of cordiality and tension between both countries. It proceeds from the assumption that many factors combine to make the Malaysia-Singapore relationship a special as well as "a complicated and delicate one".

The period stretching from 1997 to 2002 under Mahathir administration was by far the most stressful in the short history of relations between Singapore and Malaysia, with a number of issues reaching confrontational level and thus rendering them more difficult to resolve. The impasse came to an end when Abdullah...
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