Debate on ministries’ budgets

Ties with KL, Jakarta 'stronger', not defined by single issue

An artist's impression of the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) terminal in Jurong East. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said long-term strategic projects like the HSR service "give us all a greater stake in each other's success, and demon
An artist's impression of the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) terminal in Jurong East. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said long-term strategic projects like the HSR service "give us all a greater stake in each other's success, and demonstrate the tangible benefits of stable and positive ties".PHOTO: FARRELLS

Singapore's relations with its closest neighbours are of utmost importance and ties have strengthened, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament.

They are also complex and issues surface from time to time. "When they do, have a sense of perspective. Don't let a single issue derail the overall relationship," he added.

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 yesterday.

"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 added.

Singapore will also not let the case over Pedra Branca 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," he said.

Dr Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) had asked about the impact of Malaysia's election and the Pedra Branca case on Singapore-Malaysia ties. He also asked about ties with Indonesia.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that when there is the right spirit of cooperation, both sides can embark on win-win initiatives.

He cited the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit Link agreement and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail as examples of projects that are progressing well.

These 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.

Joint ventures with Indonesia are also doing well, he added, citing the Kendal Industrial Park in Central Java, a digital industry cluster in Batam and a tech start-up ecosystem in Jakarta.

Said the minister: "We believe in the 'Prosper Thy Neighbour' policy. We want Indonesia and Malaysia especially to succeed. This will be good for us, good for the region."

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'Ties with KL, Jakarta 'stronger', not defined by single issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe