Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Message from Malaysia's Prime Minister

Moving Forward In A Spirit Of Mutual Benefit

By Najib Razak
Fifty years ago today, Singapore became an independent state. As a 12-year-old, I was aware of the significance of Malaysia gaining a new neighbour and of our two countries settling our boundaries – both to continue independently on the adventure of independence, with all the opportunities and perils that developing nations faced in the 1960s.

Of course, we had a special interest in Singapore; history and geography bound us together. We have a Malay proverb for it: Sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit, or We are like tongue and teeth.

In other words, we were destined to be conjoined and need to cooperate, not compete.

Over the decades, we observed Singapore’s progress. And we too mourned the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March February (Edited: Source error). His vision underpinned Singapore’s advances, and he was admired by friends and critics alike. South-east Asia lost a statesman when he died. His presence is missed during landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure – it is the Singapore of today.

Malaysia and Singapore have had differences, but we have always achieved the most when we have worked pragmatically together – and we have much to be proud of.

In 1967, we were among the five founders of Asean, an organisation that has kept peace in the most ethnically and religiously diverse region on earth. We came together in the Five Power Defence Arrangement in 1971; we cooperated closely at the UN in the 1980s to ensure a settled future in Indochina; and today we are linked in so many ways.

Take trade cooperation, for instance. We are each other’s second largest trading partner after China. In 2014, Singapore was Malaysia’s second largest trading partner globally and the largest trading partner in Asean. 

Singapore was also the second largest source of foreign investment in Malaysia in 2014, and I am pleased that 
while Iskandar Malaysia and Penang have been the main focus of investment from Singapore, Singaporeans are now also beginning to look further afield, including Sabah and Sarawak.

In terms of tourism, the total number of visits to Malaysia from Singapore in 2014 was 13.9 million – an increase of 5.7 per cent from 2013. But we want even more of you to visit us, and this year, Tourism Malaysia is hoping we can attract 14.5 million guests from Singapore.

The changed approach between our two countries was emphasised soon after I became Prime Minister. The win-win solution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 – after a 20 year deadlock – was an example of how we chose to move forward in a spirit of mutual benefit, and put a longstanding stumbling block behind us.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I agreed that our countries should not be encumbered by any issues associated with the past. The days when some considered agreement to be a form of weakness are gone. Our future is as partners. Indeed, recently there have even been suggestions that our two countries should formulate an Olympic bid together.

On a personal note, the new relationship between Malaysia and Singapore was underlined soon after I became Prime Minister. On a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in May 2009, I was honoured to be told that a hybrid of the Dendrobium Ronald Imanuel and Dendrobium Jeffrey Tan orchids had been named the Dendrobium Najib Rosmah. The hybrid orchid is a symbol of the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. It needs to be nurtured carefully- for then it will flourish.

I am pleased with the results of our closer relations, and look forward to achieving more. The construction of the High Speed Rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will certainly transform the way Malaysians and Singaporeans interact with each other, facilitating travel between both capital cities, enhancing business linkages and improving people-to-people ties.

At this time of opportunity between our nations, I urge Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what you may read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from certain quarters running down our country.

I will ensure that Malaysia remains stable and safe – for guests and Malaysians alike.

The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity.

That is why we make good partners, and why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I will continue to work closely to bring real benefits to all Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore – Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you.

From Najibrazak.com. Click here

Monday, August 10, 2015

Risks from Malaysia's internal security woes on Singapore hard to ignore

If you believe the defence of Malaysia and Singapore is indivisible, then any threat to the Federation's security and stability - whether from external aggression or internal strife - could have a follow-on effect on Singapore too.

Among the worst-case scenarios that have surfaced recently among defence watchers is the question of how severely Singapore would be affected if social unrest up north prompts Malaysian authorities to declare a curfew.

Note that it is a foregone conclusion that Singapore will be affected should a Malaysian curfew restrict the movement of people and commerce between Malaysia and Singapore. Open to debate though is the severity of such a measure on Singapore's economy, our security posture and investor confidence.

At the most basic level, companies and businesses that rely on Malaysian workers better have a Plan B if a curfew affects the ability of their staff to turn up for work. Alas, many will not have ready answers because business continuity planning is not a strong suite among Singaporean companies, particularly the SMEs.

Anyone who has seen the predawn traffic situation at the Causeway and Second Link on a weekday would appreciate the part Malaysians serve in keeping Singapore's economy humming. Blue collar or white collar, daily-rated or salaried staff, executive or non-executive, they come across the Johor Strait in their thousands and can be found in all corners of the Lion City.

Many leave their homes in the wee hours of the morning. A 4am departure being typical in order to beat the rush at the customs, immigration and quarantine checkpoints on both sides of the border. The Malaysians then have to endure the morning rush hour traffic on Singapore island. By the time their bum hits the chair at their workplace, each would have been on the road for at least two to three hours.

For Malaysians who have to clock in every work day, their amazing race from home to workplace carries a financial penalty if their journey is disrupted. Rain, traffic jams due to accidents or road works, or the arse luck of picking a slow lane at the CIQ could cost them dearly.

After work, the tide turns the other way. The journey home could see Malaysians step past their front door around 10pm or later. And they ration their evening hours sparingly knowing the cycle will repeat itself the next work day.

And yet many Malaysians persevere. Their stoic nature is typically Malaysian and you wouldn't know from external appearances of the extraordinarily long commute they have to endure just to earn a living.

The commute is worth is. Thanks to the exchange rate that makes a job in Singapore pay several times more what a Malaysian could earn doing the same thing up north as well as lower home prices in Johor, many choose to stay on homeground knowing full well this entails many hours on the road and an abbreviated sleep cycle.

Malaysians who commute to Singapore to work are a key element of Singapore's economy.

Companies and businesses with a sizeable number of Malaysians on their payroll ought to assess how many of their foreign workers are resident in Singapore and how many make the daily commute. The demographic is crucial. It could spell the difference between business operations that hum along with minimal impact if a curfew is imposed in Malaysia or the loss of a sizeable chunk of labour that could unhinge daily operations.

For entities that provide essential services such as transport, the robustness of the assessment is crucial as it would flag out vulnerabilities that must be addressed to ensure the provision of such services is not compromised.

Recent events in the Federation have prompted defence watchers to theorise how the situation could unfold should things spiral out of control. For analysts hardwired by training to think the worst, the scenarios they have come up with are sobering to consider.

One hopes the theorising remains just an academic exercise because the impact of social unrest in the Federation will have deleterious effects on many aspects of life in the Lion City.

If the worst happens, are you ready?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

National Day Parade NDP 2015 F-16 flypast

Jubilee flight: No prizes for guessing how many years Singapore has been independent. Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16s practice their Salute to the Nation during the National Education 3 show on 25 July 2015.

Among the aerial tributes at the upcoming National Day Parade 2015, the Five-O formation by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is probably the most sought-after by photo buffs.

The crowd-pleaser by the RSAF's F-16 community is a difficult manoeuvre to perform because the flight of 20 aircraft have to fly at precise intervals to form each numeral. What's more, both numbers must follow one another properly in order for the typography to look neat from the ground - and the Five-O must arrive at show centre at the precise moment and clear the airspace over the Padang along the proper heading without delay before the six F-16s from the Black Knights aerobatic display team perform their fan break manoeuvre.

Difficult enough to execute in clear weather, the presence of low clouds, the glare from the setting sun and unpredictable winds demand a high level of concentration and flying skills from the F-16 pilots.

The twenty-ship formation forms up over the approaches to the Singapore Strait and holds formation while inbound for Singapore's city centre. During the flight towards the Padang, an additional F-16 tails the fighter formation (perhaps giving cues to tighten the formation's dressing) before peeling off and flying eastward.

What appears to be a neat "50" when seen from the ground is less apparent from the air. Look at the pilot's eye view below.

Kudos to the RSAF engineers and ground crew for maintaining a high level of serviceability. Their effort and dedication is a key enabler for such formations.

And now a word from the RSAF Helicopter community: To fly is heavenly. To hover, divine.