PETALING JAYA: Malaysians and businesses in the country want the current maritime and airspace boundary dispute between Malay-sia and Singapore to be resolved amicably as soon as possible as a lot is riding on the relationship.
With their economies intricately linked to each other – Singapore is Malaysia’s second largest trading partner while many Malaysians in Johor commute daily to the republic for work and studies – any long drawn spat is likely to affect both countries.
In Malaysia, the business sector is calling for the dispute to be solved amicably soon to safeguard the bilateral and trading ties between the two nations.
SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said that formidable relations between Malaysia and other Asean countries were essential to the region’s survival and relevance in the long run.
“Any form of dispute, be it short or long, is not good for future development.
“If this maritime and airspace dispute can be resolved without letting it drag on, it will be good for both, as well as other countries in the region.
“I am sure this is what the people from both Malaysia and Singapore want to see, too,” he said yesterday.
Likening Malaysia and nine other Asean countries as siblings, Kang said it was necessary for both Malaysia and Singapore to sit down and reach a common ground.
“If the dispute remains unresolved, it could escalate and possibly be exploited by other nearby non-Asean nations. The people as well as businesses will suffer then.
“Therefore, it is always the best if Asean countries show commitment to solve any dispute and develop the region together,” he added.
He also noted that both Malaysia and Singapore should engage less in war of words.
“Be it engaging in active discussions or initiating legal procedure, both countries have to cooperate and solve the issue either way,” he added.
Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Low Kian Chuan also echoed Kang’s sentiment, saying there was no need for neighbours to fight.
“The issue may not affect the business sector much as of now, but it doesn’t mean that it should be seen lightly.
“It will be up to the Foreign Ministry’s wisdom to deal with it by following the law.
“It should not drag on ... especially after so many years of being together,” he added.
Calling the bilateral relationship between two countries as “cold politics” and “hot economics”, Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC) executive director Lee Heng Guie said that both countries’ economic and investment relationship has been strong amid occasional flashpoints and issues in the past.
As at June, he said Singapore’s FDI stock in Malaysia amounted to RM120.9bil or 19.6% of Malaysia’s outstanding FDI, making it the largest foreign investor in Malaysia.
“In our assessment, the probability of high-intensity conflict is low. It is in the best interest of both countries to negotiate and resolve their differences.
“Both countries must avoid any hostile confrontation that would not only strain the relationship, but risk impacting the bilateral business and investment flows if the conflict escalates,” he said, adding that evidence from countries embroiled in prolonged conflict has resulted in the disruption of economic and trade flows.
Political analyst Prof Dr Aruna Gopinath, who specialises in maritime security, called for an immediate negotiation to take place.
“Immediate negotiations have to take place and there should not be any provocations. This is a border dispute and no military forces should be deployed by both countries.
“Both countries have to respect each other’s territorial integrity and return to the negotiating table,” she said, adding that the issue also should not be blown out of proportion by the media or politicians.