SINGAPORE, Feb 27 — Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is “an old friend of Singapore,” says the republic’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.
“Many Singaporean Ministers have known our Malaysian counterparts in fact for decades, and we have kept in regular contact,” he said during the committee of supply debate at Parliament today.
Balakrishnan was asked by two Members of Parliament (MPs) about Singapore’s relations with Malaysia.
“At the end of January, we welcomed PM Anwar on his introductory visit to Singapore. It was a fruitful visit,” he said.
During the visits, the minister said both countries had signed three G-to-G Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) related to the Framework Agreements on Digital and Green Economy, as well as the MoU on Personal Data Protection, Cybersecurity and Digital Economy.
“And these signal our commitment to work on new and emerging areas of mutual interest.
“We look forward to welcoming PM Anwar back to Singapore later this year for the 10th Leaders’ Retreat,” said Balakrishnan.
The minister stressed that “our close relations with Malaysia are underpinned by strong people-to-people ties and frequent high-level exchanges.”
He said that both sides also have significant ongoing cooperation projects, including the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Singapore and Johor Baru.
“This project will facilitate more convenient two-way travel for the tens of thousands who cross the border every day. It is making good progress and is expected to commence operations by the end of 2026,” he said.
However, the minister noted that as with any friendship, problems will arise from time to time.
Citing an example, Balakrishnan said whilst the issue of sovereignty over Pedra Branca has been conclusively settled Malaysia has raised objections to Singapore’s development works at Pedra Branca.
“These works are needed to enhance maritime safety and security and to improve the search and rescue capabilities in that area. They also ensure that Pedra Branca is adequately protected against the threat of sea-level rise.
Balakrishnan assured the MPs that these development works were fully in accordance with international law and Singapore’s sovereignty over the island and its waters.
“Nevertheless, in the spirit of mutual cooperation and good faith, we temporarily suspended the works in May 2022, to facilitate discussions on Malaysia’s concerns and to comprehensively address Malaysia’s queries.
“In December 2022, Singapore put forward proposals to Malaysia to resolve the issue and to move forward with the work. Subsequently, we agreed to Malaysia’s request for more time for them to consider our clarifications and proposals,” he said.
Presently, the minister informed that the development work remains paused due to the monsoon season.
“We will manage our differences constructively and pragmatically and not allow any single issue to overshadow the entire relationship.”
To a supplementary question by an MP on when the development works at Pedra Branca expected to recommence, Balakrishnan replied : “I am not going to give you a specific date because in fact ongoing discussions are occurring with Malaysia.”
“So, I do not want to complicate it by making public announcements at this point in time. But let us continue this discussion with Malaysia for the time being. There is a deadline, but I do not want to make a public pronouncement yet.” — Bernama