Singapore, Malaysia as close as family: Tan Chuan-Jin

Singapore's Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin with his Malaysian counterpart Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof yesterday. As part of his visit, Mr Tan observed a session of the Malaysian Parliament.
Singapore's Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin with his Malaysian counterpart Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof yesterday. As part of his visit, Mr Tan observed a session of the Malaysian Parliament.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Parliament Speaker urges MPs from both sides of the Causeway to maintain positive bilateral relations

Singapore's Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday urged parliamentarians from both sides of the Causeway to maintain positive bilateral relations on his first formal visit to Malaysia as Speaker.

In a speech in Malaysia's Parliament building as part of the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Lecture Series, he said Singapore and Malaysia are "as close as family" and needed to manage disagreements carefully.

"It serves both Singapore and Malaysia's interest for us to maintain an overall stable and positive bilateral relationship," he said.

"As parliamentarians, we can do our part by having more bilateral exchanges to build areas of mutual interest. We can work together to encourage our constituents to interact with the other side to build a better understanding of each other's socio-economic challenges and way of life."

During the address, Mr Tan also outlined Singapore's parliamentary system, touching on topics such as the Group Representation Constituency system, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights as well as how the Republic's Constitution prevents MPs from "crossing the floor" by expelling lawmakers who resign from their political parties.

The Singapore delegation - which included MPs Vikram Nair, Pritam Singh, Melvin Yong, Yee Chia Hsing, Joan Pereira, Henry Kwek and Saktiandi Supaat, as well as nominated MP Anthea Ong - met the Malaysia's Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, and Senate president S. A. Vigneswaran.

Malaysia's two-chamber Parliament comprises the Lower House and the Upper House Senate.

During the meeting with Tan Sri Vigneswaran, the leaders discussed several issues, including Singapore's long-term public housing strategies.

"This is the first time that Mr Tan visited us in his official capacity as Singapore's Parliament Speaker and I am happy to receive him," Mr Vigneswaran told reporters after the meeting.

"We discussed several issues, including their public housing strategies. They allocate certain quotas for all races in a bid to promote unity and burst any social class bubbles. We can learn something from this and come up with a plan for Malaysia in the near future," he added, referring to Singapore's public housing policies.

Mr Vigneswaran also said that given Malaysia and Singapore's long history together, it is important for both countries to "look at the bigger picture" despite facing several bilateral issues.

"So whatever issues we have between us can be, and will be, resolved amicably in due time," Mr Vigneswaran said.

Earlier in the day, when observing a sitting of the Lower House, Mr Tan was unexpectedly dragged into a squabble between an Umno MP and the Deputy Speaker over the suspension of the MP.

The online news site Malaysiakini reported yesterday that the suspended MP, Mr Noh Omar, had turned to Mr Tan in the gallery during the squabble to say: "I want to ask the Speaker from Singapore, have you ever suspended members (of Parliament) in their absence?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore, Malaysia as close as family: Tan Chuan-Jin'. Print Edition | Subscribe