Kuala Lumpur—On the eve of the ninth annual Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat, Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced that the country is adopting a “prosper thy neighbour” perspective so that there will be a “win-win” on all sides.
In a joint press conference with Anthony Loke, the Malaysian Transport Minister, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Mr Khaw talked about the rarity of zero-sum games, except in courtship.
He said, “It’s either ‘you marry me’ or ‘you marry him’. But in life and many other matters (such as) economic affairs and so on, with some creativity and goodwill, you can always forge some win-win solutions.”
Singapore’s Transport Minister is part of the delegation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Malaysia for the two-day Leaders’ Retreat. There are eight other Cabinet Ministers who are part of the delegation as well: Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean; Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat; Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu; Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing; Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong; and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
At the press conference, Mr Khaw gave tourism as an example of a win-win solution. Since 7 out of 10 visitors to Singapore also visit other ASEAN countries, a win for one country is a win for its neighbours.
“If the motive is clear — prosper thy neighbour — we can achieve such a positive, mutually beneficial outcome, not just for Malaysia and Singapore, in fact, for the whole region,” he said.
Mr Khaw announced that a committee headed by senior transport officials from both Malaysia and Singapore had been established for reviewing the Operational Letter of Agreement between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore Area Control Centres Concerning Singapore Arrivals, Departures and Overflights 1974, under which the airspace over southern Johor is managed by Singapore’s air-traffic controllers.
Now, Malaysia has said it wants to, and is ready, to take those rights back.
This arrangement, Mr Khaw said, dates from a 1973 regional air navigation meeting and was brokered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Mr Khaw believes that the interests of both countries can be considered and protected.
“Minister Loke stressed that the review was important to Malaysia. I assured him that Singapore would approach the review with an open mind, bearing in mind the many stakeholders involved and the critical need to ensure safety and efficiency in a very busy airspace.”
With goodwill and compromise, I am sure that a win-win solution which does not undermine each other’s core interests can be found.”
For his part, Malaysia’s Transport Minister made note of the good working relationship he has had with Mr Khaw during their recent meetings.
“We had a lot of discussions over the last two to three months and… that resulted in the win-win situation that we can look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship. We are committed to having more collaboration and to working together even closer, in order to achieve benefits for both countries.”
Moreover, he claims that since the airspace over southern Johor is part of Malaysia’s sovereign territory, the country desires to manage it.
He said, “”We wish to manage the airspace. That is our desire and we think that after 45 years … it is high time we review the agreement. We are ready technically, we have invested a lot of money in equipment and our traffic control readiness.”
He also said that Malaysia has made investments into air-traffic-control readiness and equipment through the years, such as the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre in Sepang./ TISG
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