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Malaysia

How long will Mahathir Mohamad hold those grudges against Singapore?

  • Singaporeans remember well what it was like to deal with Malaysia’s long-time prime minister from 1981-2003
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 3:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 3:16pm

I refer to the article, “Malaysia refuses to back down over air and sea boundary disputes with Singapore” (December 10).

It is disappointing to see the Malaysian government resorting to old threats and tactics to score cheap political points with their electorate, at the expense of their neighbour Singapore.

Ever since Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over the reins in May, he has been making things difficult for Singapore, including delaying the construction of a high-speed rail connecting the two countries and restarting debate on the price of water it supplies to Singapore. Such tactics are not new to Singaporeans, who bore the brunt of it during first premiership between 1981 and 2003.

The idiosyncratic Dr Mahathir has always borne a grudge against Singapore, perhaps due to his partially negative experience as a university student in the country and the historical enmity surrounding Singapore’s political expulsion from the Malaysian federation in August 1965.

Singaporean media has reported on his fond memories about his classmates from the King Edward VII College of Medicine, but also about the “distance” between big-city Singapore and kampong-bred students from Malaysia, as well as how a taxi driver drove him to the kitchen because he was Malay.

Malaysia and Singapore at odds over air and sea boundaries

Taking the issue on airspace sovereignty as an illustration, I am unsure of his agenda this time to protest about it in southern Johor, when it has been managed by Singapore since 1973, under an agreement with regional states including Malaysia. It was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation then. So what’s the rationale of changing the status quo now?

I hope Dr Mahathir can stop such tactics and behave respectfully as behoves an elder statesman. There are many other problems for him to solve – such as the massive national debt incurred by the previous administration – instead of politicking in the foreign policy arena, distracting Malaysians from domestic problems and making Singapore the political bogeyman.

Sean Lim, Singapore