SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to build and manage its network of relations with other countries, and as a small state, the law is an important tool which enables it to do so, Attorney-General Lucien Wong said on Monday (Jan 7).
He was speaking at the Opening of the Legal Year 2019 at the Supreme Court, where he noted that the management of the Republic's cross-border relationships had been a key theme for the Attorney-General's Chambers over the past year.
"We, as Singaporeans, have grown up with the mantra that Singapore as a small nation-state has no hinterland and is dependent on trade and human connections to thrive," he told members of the legal community, in underlining the law's role in maintaining Singapore's ties with other countries.
"It has been a challenging year in this regard, with our bilateral ties with our closest neighbour put to the test," he added. "As a small country, Singapore is never immune from political changes in neighbouring countries, especially Malaysia."
Mr Wong noted that while the dispute over Pedra Branca ended amicably with Malaysia withdrawing its applications about two weeks before their scheduled hearing at the International Court of Justice, the change in government across the Causeway has had significant impact on ongoing bilateral projects, such as the planned Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail.
"Our officers were on hand to advise the Government on this matter, working in support of the negotiating teams," he said. "The outcome was a positive and balanced one, resulting in a mutually agreeable resolution between both countries that also ensured that Singapore's interests were safeguarded."
The Attorney-General's Chambers recently continued its support of the Government on a number of issues concerning Malaysia, he added, citing three instances: the purported extension of Johor port limits into Singapore territorial waters, airspace management over southern Johor, and the review of water prices under the 1962 Water Agreement with Malaysia.
Singapore has described Malaysia's unilateral extension of Johor Baru port limits on Oct 25 and the repeated intrusions by Malaysian government vessels into the Republic's waters as a serious violation of Singapore's sovereignty and international law.
Malaysia has also objected to new landing procedures for Seletar Airport and wants to review the price of water supplied to Singapore.
In his speech, Mr Wong also touched on two other themes that shaped his office's work in the past year: the ongoing digital revolution and the importance of cyber security, as well as that of building a caring and cohesive society.