Parliament: Singapore-Malaysia relations will not be defined by Pedra Branca or KL election fever, says Vivian

Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks in a file picture taken on April 4, 2017.
Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks in a file picture taken on April 4, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - No single issue will define relations between Singapore and Malaysia, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, citing election fever politicking and the Pedra Branca case before the international courts as potential examples.

The minister noted that Malaysia will soon hold its general election.

"We know from past history that every time election rhetoric heats up, sometimes Singapore becomes part of the political fodder," he said during the debate on his ministry's budget on Thursday (March 1).

"We must ensure we do not get drawn into the domestic politics of our neighbours. Nor will we allow the import of foreign countries' politics," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan made the point that Singapore's relations with its closest neighbours - Malaysia and Indonesia - are of "utmost importance" and marked by both cooperation and occasional friction.

"Issues will surface from time to time. When they do, have a sense of perspective. Don't let a single issue derail the overall relationship," he told MPs.

Singapore will also not let the dispute over Pedra Branca now before the International Court of Justice define or derail its relationship with Malaysia, said Dr Balakrishnan.

"When we have a difference, we seek peaceful resolution according to international law."

Cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia

Dr Balakrishnan was replying to Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC), who asked about the impact of Malaysia's election and the court case on Singapore-Malaysia ties.

"Overall, we believe in the 'prosper thy neighbour' policy. We want Indonesia and Malaysia to succeed. This will be good for Singapore and good for the region," he said.

The minister gave examples of ongoing projects Singapore has with Malaysia and Indonesia.

For example, Singapore and Malaysia recently inked an agreement to build the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link.

The cross-border line, when completed in 2024, will let commuters travel seamlessly between Johor Baru and Woodlands North in Singapore.

The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail is also progressing well.

The tender for the assets company will close in June and the result will be announced in about a year's time, he said, adding it will be conducted in a fair, open and transparent manner.

Singapore's recently-launched joint venture in Central Java, the Kendal Industrial Park, is also doing well, he added.

"Such long-term strategic projects...give us all a greater stake in each other's success, and demonstrate the tangible benefits of stable and positive ties," he said.