Singapore Minister wants baby steps against the ‘no-holds-barred’ approach to reopening the border with Malaysia

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Vivian Balakrishnan

According to the Republic’s foreign minister, Singapore is expected to pursue a “step-by – step strategy” to reopening its boundary with Malaysia, with public safety becoming a primary concern on the move.

Vivian Balakrishnan, speaking to Channel News Asia (CNA), said the boundary could be slowly opened along with continuing prevention steps such as Covid-19 checks and touch tracking.

On June 19, in theory, the Malaysian government decided to allow Singaporeans and Bruneians to access the country’s borders without needing to request for permission from the Malaysian Immigration Department or undergo screening and home quarantine for Covid-19.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said, but that was on condition that the Singapore and Brunei governments should also extend the same rights to Malaysians. In addition, in the light of the Covid-19 scenario, Singapore said it was prepared to collaborate with Malaysia to resolve cross-border traveler needs.

Speaking on when travel between Singapore and Malaysia will restart, Balakrishnan said he would “hesitate to place a date” and added that several specifics had to be sorted out by officials on both sides of the Causeway.

He also noted the “very successful” cooperation of both Singapore and Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic. Another such indication was how the health departments were also in near contact from both sides.

A lot of contact has been going on, phone calls, video conferences at all hours of day and night, at all stages of leadership. And the contact was quite helpful, and helped develop trust.

There were Singaporeans returning from other parts of the world on Malaysian airlines, and when we had rooms, we also provided Malaysians with seats, who were also trying to return. In other terms, not only did we provide our people with consular assistance to each other, we also acted as a transportation hub for our people urgently seeking to go home, “he added.

Despite confusion in the early days of the movement control order from Malaysia, Balakrishnan also said both sides managed to keep the movement of goods flow. Balakrishnan said countries which have close political ties; commercial and economic interests in; and common public health systems should match the parameters for how Singapore determines in which country to develop such arrangements.

“There are going to be ups and downs, not just in Singapore but also in other countries. And such structures must be versatile enough to accommodate shifting situations. But the main thing is coordination, honesty, open-mindedness, durability and adding that such structures would have to survive the time check because they would have to be in effect for the next 12-18 months.

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