(Penang, Tuesday): It is a matter of concern that Singapore and Malaysia relations is heading for another stormy patch, with the latest exchange between the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Sabbaruddin Chik and the Singapore Minister Without Portfolio, Lim Boon Cheng.
The Singapore Minister had asked Sabarrudin to apologise for his "unwarranted remarks" that "Singapore is displaying a very unfriendly attitude which should be corrected as it is our closest neighbour", to which, Sabarrudin had responded by saying that there was no need for him to apologise.
Sabaruddin had last Tuesday hit out at a conference organiser in Singapore for unfriendly and unco-operative attitude in "purposely" leaving out Malaysia as one of the destinations to be visited by some 25,000 participants of a Rotary International convention it is organising.
Last Friday, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement describing Sabaruddin’s remarks as misleading and damaging to good bilateral relations.
It said the convention was being organised by Rotary District 3310 which covers Malacca, Johore, Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore.
The Johore Tourist Guide Association has said that the mistake of the omission was made by the tour agent, and the Malaysian Rotary Club has publicly said that the oversight in the brochure would be rectified.
With these clarifications and the clearing of the air, it is most unfortunate that when asked by the press yesterday, Sabaruddin implied bad faith in the mistake with the remark that "Sometimes, things are done on purpose".
Unless Sabaruddin has proof that the mistake of the omission was deliberate
and intentional, he has added oil to fire to aggravate an unnecessary tantrum
in Malaysia-Singapore relations.
Singapore and Malaysian Ministers should act with greater restraint and be very careful in their utterances so as not to strain bilateral and good neighbourly relations between the two countries, which will not be conducive to the amicable settlement of outstanding issues and disputes between Malaysia and Singapore, including:
The Malaysian and Singapore Cabinets should ensure that Ministers of both countries exercise the greatest restraint in their pronouncements to ensure that they do not impose unnecessary strains in the bilateral relations of both countries, and that the spirit of good neighbourliness should permeate the inter-governmental relationship and govern the resolution of all outstanding issues and disputes.