The importance of being 'chill' in the row with Singapore

Phar Kim Beng

Modified 22 Dec 2018, 8:32 am

COMMENT | Winning and losing in a battle is not a matter of seeing who raises the proverbial white flag. Singapore never will, and neither will Malaysia.

Doing so would spell the beginning of the end of Singapore's People's Action Party (PAP) with the general election around the corner, and with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong potentially handing the baton to Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in the near future.

All Malaysians wish Singaporeans well, but we are pantang dicabar (do not like to be challenged). It is not in our DNA, as former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak so ingloriously found out on May 9.

So it was good that Ho Ching, the wife of the Singaporean prime minister, called for "chill" – in response to the op-ed from Bersatu's policy and strategy bureau chief Rais Hussin – because it shows that calmer heads and minds have begun to prevail.

Ho's statement runs contrary to the litany of protests that the republic's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan listed over the 14 "intrusions" of Malaysian vessels.

But Khaw seemed to have overlooked the fact Malaysian vessels did not anchor nor linger in areas that remain subject to further legal challenge.

Malaysia is not claiming the contested waters near Pulau Batu Puteh. But it has not acknowledged that strip of water as Singapore's either.

Since Singapore was victorious in the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute, it seems superfluous to use a coastal defence ship and an open mobilisation exercise for Malaysia to stay away.

The video of Singaporean Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, which shows Singapore patrol boats chasing away Malaysian ships, seems like the posture of a fighter poised with raised arms ready to engage in fisticuffs, even when Malaysia has not entered the ring nor indicated any intent to do so...

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