KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — The reopening of borders between Singapore and Malaysia will take into account existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health protocols beneficial to both countries, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein assured Malaysians today amid ongoing negotiations.
“I just want to make a guarantee and assurance to everybody that in my discussion with the Foreign Minister of Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan, what is important to us is SOPs, the health protocols and it is for the benefit of both people from Malaysia and Singapore.
“What is important is that we take a step by step approach to ensure the reopening of relations and movement of our people is done smoothly, safely and it will benefit us in all sectors.
“If we can’t do it with our immediate neighbour Singapore, I think it will be hard-pushed for us to start looking at five other countries [in Asean] which includes Singapore now that we are trying to navigate this green bubble [concept],” he said during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.
A “green bubble” concept is where travel restrictions are eased between countries which have successfully contained the Covid-19 pandemic. Travellers from other countries are not allowed.
He was earlier asked to respond to a remark made by former Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan claiming that Malaysia “will export its problem to Singapore” should borders between the two neighbouring countries reopen without restrictions and tests.
“So I’m quite positive, of course there will be people that will look at it negatively, but they are not involved in negotiations. They don’t know what I am discussing with Singapore’s foreign minister.
“So they can say what they like but as long we can assure the Malaysian and Singaporean people that all necessary safeguard has been taken into account and that we are responsible in the way we conduct this relation and reopening up,” Hishammuddin said, adding that he has no prior knowledge of who Kausikan was.
On June 19, the Malaysian government had agreed in principle to let Singaporeans and Bruneians enter the country borders without having to apply for approval from the Malaysian Immigration Department or to undergo Covid-19 screening and home quarantine.
Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said, however, this was on condition that Malaysians would also be afforded the same privileges by the Singapore and Brunei governments.
In response, Singapore said it was prepared to work with Malaysia in addressing the needs of cross-border travellers, amid the Covid-19 situation.
During an interview, Balakrishnan said Singapore is likely to take a “step by step approach” on reopening its border with Malaysia, with public health being a key consideration on the decision.