Foster multilevel ties to improve Malaysia-Singapore relations

Disagreements between Malaysia and its southern counterpart are normal, says analyst


Malaysia and Singapore should foster greater academic and non-governmental ties to cushion the rising tensions over territorial and sovereign claims between both countries.

Political analyst Dr Chandra Muzaffar said it is better for both countries to have a multilevel relationship to have greater understanding on each country’s take on various issues.

“I think, on top of the government-to-government relationship, we should also build up ties between our think tanks, research institutes, academicians, lawmakers, bureaucrats, or even in sports and culture.

“We already have a good connection in terms of governments and businesses, but I believe it is always good for close neighbours to build up a multilevel relationship,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a phone interview recently.

For the past several weeks, Malaysia and Singapore have been engaged in a dispute over air and sea limits.

Both country leaders have subsequently agreed to meet next month for further deliberation on the matter.

Chandra is of the view that dis- agreements between Malaysia and its southern counterpart are normal.

“What is important is to strengthen the friction-solving mechanism so that any conflict can be resolved in a peaceful manner,” he added.

Chandra believes that under Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership, any dispute would be resolved pragmatically.

“Supported by our history, both leaders cannot ignore that any disputes are bound to be governed by a pragmatic situation at the end of the day.”

Meanwhile, Malaysia Singapore Business Council (MSBC) chairman Datuk Seri Dr Nik Norzrul Thani Nik Hassan Thani (picture) said based on past records, the series of conflicts which hampered both nations before were resolved amicably.

“There will always be issues between neighbours — there are historical data to that effect and this kind of matter has been resolved before.

“So, this will take the natural course of discussion between the two parties and will inevitably be sorted out amicably soon,” he told TMR in an email reply.

He added that MSBC has maintained a strong relationship with its counterpart at the republic, and welcomes any further multilevel development that could be discussed during the meeting.

“This can be further enhanced with other domains such as the academia, and institutions of higher learning like universities and colleges. In the end, any issue can have a solution,” he said.