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F50 – Connecting Singapore and Our Neighbours: Media Coverage

24 Apr F50 – Connecting Singapore and Our Neighbours: Media Coverage

How has Singapore fared in managing its relations with its closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia? What lies ahead for these key relationships, both at the bilateral level, and at the multilateral level as part of ASEAN? We organised a public lecture on “Connecting Singapore and Our Neighbours: Competition, Cooperation and Integration” as part of our Future50 series, in conjunction with SG50.

The event was held on 23 April at the Singtel Comcentre Theatrette, featuring remarks from H.E. Khairy Jamaluddin, the Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports and Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, the former Indonesian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Additional comments on the panel were given by Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA, and the session was moderated by Mr. Nicholas Fang, Executive Director of the SIIA and co-director of Future50. The event was also accompanied by breakout discussion groups where participants were invited to respond to the speakers’ comments and share their own views on the topic.

Below are excerpts from media coverage of the session.

ASEAN needs to become more people-driven: Future50 panellists

Channel NewsAsia, 24 Apr 2015

by Huang Qinqin

Among the challenges to ASEAN unity, is the issue of transboundary haze. In 2013, smoke from Indonesian forest fires choked Singapore and Malaysia so badly that it stirred tensions among the three countries.

“Like all neighbours, there are always cross-border issues, you know,” said Professor Simon Tay, chairman of SIIA. “For us it could be the haze. Every year we get these fires that affect Indonesia, but also affect Singapore and affect Malaysia. So we will have to manage these issues.”

The need to dampen such friction becomes more urgent as ASEAN seeks greater integration, such as an economic community set to be achieved by year-end.

Core members such as Singapore can play a role in contributing to a more united ASEAN, panellists said. But beyond inter-governmental efforts, the people also need to feel they are part of a greater community.

“I think in Indonesia, I can safely say less than 5 per cent of the population know what the ASEAN Economic Community is, and I think this is similar to what happens in other ASEAN countries,” said Dr Dino.

“So, yes, I think Indonesia sees it differently than Singapore. There’s a lot more anxiety about the ASEAN Economic Community and this is why the leaders need to step up and convince the population that this is a good thing for Indonesia and the region.”

Changing the mindset of the people might be a challenge, but leaders firmly hope that it can be fulfilled.

”I think my biggest hope for ASEAN really is in the people-to-people relationships,” said Mr Khairy. ”The thing that underpins everything, is trying to build this identity of a community with people-to-people interaction.”

Getting this sense of belonging will help ASEAN stay united and push forward efforts towards integration, the panellists said.


Malaysia still keen on replacing Causeway: Khairy

TODAY, 24 Apr 2015 (Also published on Channel NewsAsia and The Malay Mail)

By Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE: Malaysia remains keen on the prospect of a new bridge replacing the Causeway, and Malaysian Minister for Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin said he hoped the Prime Ministers of both countries will discuss the issue at the leaders’ retreat in 10 days’ time.

“I think it’s an important symbol as well for future bilateral relations, that we’re no longer trapped by the whole notion of having to have that Causeway — we can demolish it and build something,” he said.

“And before we even talk about a rapid transit system between Johor and Singapore and the high-speed rail link, I think we should explore the possibility of whether we can have a bridge. It’ll be nice and I’m sure on both sides they’ll be happy to have the water flow through the Straits,” he added.

Mr Khairy said a new bridge could provide a wider thoroughfare between Singapore and Malaysia, potentially reducing jams. But he was clear that the current Malaysian government is not pursuing the idea of the “crooked bridge” mooted by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The “crooked bridge” project involves tearing down Malaysia’s side of the Causeway and replacing it with a six-lane bridge connected to Singapore. The Republic had opposed the work, arguing that it would be a costly affair that would bring few economic benefits.

The Causeway is jointly owned by both countries, and “if you want to replace the Causeway, you should replace it with a straight bridge where there’s agreement on both sides”, said Mr Khairy. He added that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has raised the issue of a new bridge with his counterpart, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The crooked bridge is one of the issues recently raised by Dr Mahathir against Mr Najib. Asked about Dr Mahathir’s criticisms of Mr Najib and whether this has affected investor confidence in his country, Mr Khairy pointed to the oversubscription of the Malaysian government’s US$1.5 billion Islamic bonds by six times.

“I think people have been fed a lot of allegations in great detail, so we really have to ensure that each and every allegation is answered in a comprehensive way. That’s why we’ve asked for a (comprehensive) audit to be done … on all the allegations from the PetroSaudi deal, to how the liabilities have accumulated,” said Mr Khairy.

The audit will make its way to Parliament and to the public accounts committee made up of opposition and government lawmakers. Mr Najib has said he would make sure that anyone found to have embezzled or committed criminal breach of trust would be punished, said Mr Khairy.

Asked about his interest in taking the reins as Prime Minister, Mr Khairy said: “Not all of us are trained and brought up in the party to be interested in the top job. We’re just interested in playing our part.”

Radicalisation not only a security issue: M’sian minister

TODAY, 24 Apr 2015

By Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Malaysia is approaching the threat of radicalisation in a multi-faceted manner, even as it stays vigilant against threats from the Islamic State, said its Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.

The country is looking to set up an overseas volunteer organisation, overseen by his ministry and modelled after the Peace Corps in the United States, to cater to young Malaysians who want to help out in other countries.

Radicalisation is “a multi-faceted problem, it’s not just a security issue. It’s also an issue of education, socio-economic background, also how we deal with young people in Malaysia”, he told reporters from Singapore ahead of a talk organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Official statistics show that 30 Malaysians have gone to Iraq and Syria, and another 30 have been stopped at the border, he said, adding: “Unofficially there may be more.”

But Mr Khairy also sought to “put things in perspective”, noting that fewer Malaysians have gone to Iraq and Syria than those from some other countries such as Sweden.


Khairy urges KL, S’pore to join hands as equals
Malaysian minister says the two need each other, and must forget their ‘big brother, little brother past’

The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015 (Requires Login)

By Reme Ahmad

MALAYSIAN Cabinet Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday called on Malaysia and Singapore to move beyond treating each other as bogeymen and rivals and instead come together as equals to improve Asean.

He said that in the past five decades, politicians have used the other country to show how much progress had been made in their own nation, but this “abang, adik” (big brother, little brother) relationship should be a thing of the past.

The Youth and Sports Minister pointed out that Malaysia and Singapore are inextricably linked by deep trade ties, and already work closely together on security issues such as counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and defence exercises.

“For many, many years, in the last 50 years, we have existed with this world view, as counterpoint to one another. If you read speeches made by Malaysian politicians, every time they need to rally nationalism, there is only one bogeyman, and the most convenient, of course, is Singapore.

“If you read the writings of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, it is very clear who the rival is.

“I think it’s time we accepted the fact that we need each other, and we put aside this world view that we use each other for our national interests,” Mr Khairy said in response to a question at a forum held in Singapore.

Mr Khairy and former Indonesian deputy foreign minister Dino Pati Djalal were the speakers at Connecting Singapore And Our Neighbours: Competition, Cooperation And Integration.

The event was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Speaking as commentator at the forum, SIIA chairman Simon Tay said his father’s generation of Singaporeans and Malaysians often compared happenings in the two countries.

“I share the hope that we get rid of some of the old baggage and work together in a new way,” he said.

Mr Khairy said the challenges faced by Malaysia and Singapore are the same today.

“It’s about collaboration… It’s no more this condescending relationship on both sides.

“It’s no longer who is the big brother, who is the little brother, who is the abang, who is the adik. We are all friends now and we are all equal; we want to see Asean work.”

Mr Khairy defended the affirmative action Bumiputera policy, which is often attacked by Malaysia’s critics, saying it helped Malays break out of poverty to make the country peaceful and stable.

Asked about the attacks on Prime Minister Najib Razak by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Khairy said the Cabinet and Umno leaders will answer the issues raised in detail.

These include the attacks over finances of government-backed fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, with an audit being carried out by the respected auditor-general.

“We have to tackle the substance of his criticisms,” Mr Khairy said.

Dr Djalal, in his speech, said that Indonesia has had a “golden decade” under the two-term president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who raised the level of economic activities, strengthened national identity and boosted the country’s self-esteem.

President Joko Widodo must now meet the high expectations of Indonesians to bring in the “second golden decade”, Dr Djalal said.

While there have been concerns raised about increasing Indonesian nationalism, the former Indonesian minister sees instead a country that is more outward-looking than before.

“Maybe there is a change in style and emphasis, but Asean is the cornerstone of our policy,” he said.