By Massita Ahmad
SINGAPORE, Jan 11 (Bernama) – “Keep an open mind, live beyond dispute, and cooperate.”
That would be the sensible hope of every citizen of Malaysia and Singapore, regardless of their background, for their leaders to practise to see an end to the disputes between the two “brother” countries.
“Singapore and Malaysia have so much in common. We should really focus on the areas where we can cooperate,” Manu Bhaskaran, a leading Asian economist based in Singapore told Bernama.
Pointing out that it was his personal view, Bhaskaran, a director of Centennial Group International and the founding director and CEO of Centennial Asia Advisors, said the two countries, in fact, should live beyond dispute.
“We are relatively small economies in a highly competitive, complex and decently difficult world,” he said, stressing that Malaysia and Singapore should actually “work together”.
“Together, I really believe, we can do so much for the benefit of our peoples,” he said.
Bhaskaran said he was happy that Malaysia and Singapore have, so far, successfully worked out the arrangements for talks to settle their airspace and maritime disputes during a meeting on Tuesday between their foreign ministers, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah of Malaysia and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore.
The two sides agreed to immediately and simultaneously suspend Malaysia's permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang in Johor and Singapore’s implementation of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedure for its Seletar Airport.
Both the suspensions are for a period of one month in the first instance.
On maritime issues involving the Johor Bahru and Singapore port limits, the two countries agreed to establish a working group which will study and discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
Meanwhile, former Malaysian International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria said she hoped that Malaysia and Singapore would continue to keep an open mind and find a common ground.
“I think that’s very important,” said Sta Maria, the first woman to be appointed the executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) secretariat.
She said it was also vital to keep the channel of communication open.
“We can disagree but if we keep our channel open at least, we will be able to understand where each one is coming from and when we get there we can try and find solutions.
“If we don’t keep our communication open, then we will harbour concerns which would not lead to solutions,” she added.
Bernama approached Bhaskaran and Sta Maria on Wednesday on the sidelines of The Regional Outlook Forum, a flagship event of ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, a research body located in Singapore.
It was noted that at their meeting, held at the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Sherwood Road here, Saifuddin and Balakrishnan addressed each other as “brother” in some of their exchanges.