Hurray! The latest dispute between Singapore and Malaysia is now officially more than 1 week old. And despite what Malaysia has said about de-escalating the issue, their boats remain anchored right off the Tuas shores. They’ve even recently talked about reducing eggs exports!
So much for de-escalation – this is eggscalation!
We don’t know for sure why Malaysia is doing this suddenly –the sea borders and airspace management have been fixed for more than 3 decades! But if I were to bet on possible reasons, I would probably go all-in on Dr Mahathir.
Many Singaporeans, especially the older ones, would know that Dr Mahathir couldn’t stand Singapore during his first term as Prime Minister. I mean, he did once “joke” about bombing Singapore. The latest moves to squeeze us with sea port and airspace is probably part of his ongoing strategy to weaken Singapore, just like his campaign to review water price.
And what better time to launch his weaken Singapore campaign than now? Our leadership is in transition, and he is still riding on a somewhat-high of winning Malaysia’s elections. And if he succeeds in weakening Singapore, I’m sure Kuala Lumpur would be very happy to take in all the frightened investors who had planned to invest in South-East Asia.
In his eyes, Malaysian success is good. But if Malaysia succeeds and Singapore fails, even better!
All about the money
But everyone knows that the Pakatan Harapan Government has more cliques and more backstabbing than an all-girls school. So how is it that nobody from his Government has disagreed or tried to undermine him?
One word – money.
Malaysia is broke – so broke that even their Muslim pilgrimage fund was found to be in deficit. And so they need money, lots of money. And when they need money they turn to Singapore. Airspace, sea port, water – money is involved in all these.
But of course they cannot tell Malaysians that it’s about money – they’re still recovering from Najib afterall. So they call it “sovereignty”, which sounds a lot nicer.
So next time when you see Dr Mahathir or Anthony Loke say “sovereignty” just replace that word with “money” and their words would probably make more sense.
Neighbourhood is watching
A very wise man once told me – bilateral relationships are never bilateral. The world is watching – how we deal with a bilateral issue, how we navigate challenges from bigger countries will all be noted by other bigger countries.
And in the case of airspace and sea ports, I’m pretty sure our Indonesian neighbour is taking a keen interest in how we manage Malaysia. Remember, the Indonesians made similar demands to take back the management of the airspace above Riau Islands back in 2015.
And with their elections coming next year, who’s to say that they won’t take a leaf out of Malaysia’s book and squeeze us left right centre?
So now how?
A lot of politicians have urged Singaporeans to stay united. What does that actually mean?
To me, this means that we should try to remain updated about this issue. We don’t have to know all the technical details, but we should know enough to understand why this issue is of our national interest.
And we should also recognise that Malaysia is challenging our national interest, so we don’t get distracted by lies from Malaysia or even some of our local “alternative” media who seem happy to undermine Singapore’s interest to spite our politicians.
And if we understand all these and stay united, they can squeeze us all they want. Afterall, the harder they squeeze, the tighter we will become.