Singapore and Malaysia must look at big picture

As tensions between Singapore and Malaysia continue to mount over the air space and maritime disputes, it is important for both parties to look for common ground and proceed in the spirit of shared interests.

Singapore and Malaysia are intimately fused by personal relationships, history, geography, economics and even language and culture.

Singaporeans and Malaysians who cross the Causeway can't help but feel at home as similar gastronomical delights are served up, and common linguistic expressions are heard on the streets.

When tragedies break out, we have hurried to each other's side to deliver aid. We have also taken part in joint relief efforts to aid our mutual neighbours, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

If we look around the world, the territorial row plaguing Singapore and Malaysia is nothing unique.

Timor-Leste and Australia have demonstrated to the world that territorial differences are not insurmountable and can be resolved in a peaceful manner with the right mechanisms.

Beyond our bilateral relations, Singapore and Malaysia are both founding members of Asean and have a collective stake in preserving regional peace and stability, and fostering economic integration. The need to resolve our disputes fruitfully so that we can stand united is especially pronounced today given the global political turbulence and terrorism threats plaguing us.

Due to our geographical proximity, it is inevitable for Singapore and Malaysia to have disagreements like siblings do at times.

However, we must rise above the acrimony, look at the big picture and exercise the political fortitude necessary in carving out a fair and enduring compromise.

Lily Ong (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore and Malaysia must look at big picture'. Print Edition | Subscribe