Singapore ties ‘more strained’


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 02 Jan 2003

By MERGAWATI ZULFAKAR and SIM LEOI LEOI

PUTRAJAYA: The relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is more strained than strong, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said. 

He said that while Malaysia believed in the process of exercising good neighbourliness, Singapore conducted bilateral relations with Kuala Lumpur very business-like and was trying to “score points all the time.” 

“It is not good. I think it is a relationship full of uncertainties. But we have conducted our diplomatic relationship in a way we deem proper for bilateral relations between the two countries,” he said in an interview here. 

Syed Hamid said Singapore had on many occasions implemented actions that were inconsiderate although legally they might have the right to do so. 

He cited the move for Singapore-registered cars to be at least three-quarters full on leaving the republic, opening a few counters at the checkpoints and slowing down the process of stamping and checking documents and passports. 

Syed Hamid said in the case of the naval base in Woodlands, Malaysia moved out because Singapore was increasing the rental three-folds from S$1.9mil to S$6.1mil in 1991. 

The republic also told Malaysia that the rental would be reviewed every three years. 

“I remember, when I was (Defence) Minister, I said there was so much work we had done, should not we get compensation for it? But ultimately, no compensation was given. 

“We spent S$32.2mil to build 27 buildings and one mosque which we donated to the Singapore Religious Council. We developed, improved and spent a lot of money,” he added. 

Syed Hamid also said that during a meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore’s Goh Chok Tong in 1992, the leaders spoke on the rental increase. 

“We said it is too high but Singapore said the price of land had gone up. 

“If you look at the Malaysia-Singapore separation agreement, the Government of Singapore will accord to the Government of Malaysia the right to continue to maintain the bases and buildings of military co-operation in Singapore and not necessarily for the purpose of external defence.  

“But see how they forced us out by increasing the rent,” he added.  

The foreign minister pointed out that whenever there was any negative publicity, the Singapore media would “make it bigger than life.” 

“They will write special columns in the media and this is all done on a regular basis. For instance, on the New Economic Policy, they had interviewed the Malays on what the government had done for them and then towards the end they picked on certain angles to show non-Malays were discriminated against.” 

Syed Hamid recalled that during the economic crisis when Malaysia was looking for a loan from Singapore, the island repubic agreed but they made it “very onerous.” 

“They were not forthcoming at a time when we needed them.” 

He felt that relations between Malaysia and Singapore should be deeper than with the other Asean countries because of the inter-twining of their multifaceted history. 

“But this is not happening. Sometimes we find that quietly, they also have given very negative signals to other countries, like in the case of the Asean + 3 Secretariat. 

“Singapore has objected very strongly and yet they host the Apec secretariat there, and they go very strongly in trying to belittle Malaysia’s efforts and yet they talk about East Asia community,” he added. 

“That is why bilateral relations have been violent sometimes. It is a very strong word because there are ups and downs.  

“That is my description of violent movements, violent fluctuations of that situation, not violent in a physical sense. 

He said in the case of bilateral relations between the two countries, the weightage was greater on a strained relationship rather than a strong relationship. 

“We have conducted our bilateral relations properly but there are so many things we are not happy about. So I think it is not an easy relationship. We are on talking terms but it is not good.” 

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