Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Abdullah-Hsien Loong
Meeting In Mid-May
Without Fixed Agenda?

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said, no fixed agenda had been set for the four-eyed meeting between Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, in Langkawi on May 15 2007.

"It's up to the prime minister to decide on the issues to be raised in his meeting with Lee," he told Bernama in Kota Tinggi yesterday.

But, he added that though no fixed agenda has been set, issues on bilateral ties may be discussed during the talks.

Asked by Bernama on whether the two prime ministers would dwell on the outstanding issues between the two neighbours, Syed Hamid said, it was up to the two leaders.

Besides Lee, the Singapore delegation to the one-day meeting would comprise foreign, transport and defence ministers, among others.

Don’t we feel strange? Is it not very abnormal for two top leaders of two countries with numerous unsettled problems and pending issues to hold a meeting, although an informal one, without any fixed agenda?

Or, is it because Syed Hamid had said “the May 15 meeting comes at a time when bilateral ties” between Malaysia and Singapore “are at its best” that the two leaders decided to just dwell on any cock-and-bull issues that crossed their minds on that particular day?

May be, just may be, it is not a meeting, including an informal on, that is scheduled to take place in Langkawi on May 15 2007.

As being correctly said by Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, in Singapore Parliament on Monday, March 6 2007, “Mr Lee Hsien Loong will lead a delegation of ministers up north for a retreat with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and his colleagues.”

So, is it a meeting or just a retreat where leaders of both countries just rub shoulders, play a few rounds of golf, enjoying the fresh air of Langkawi, and then they split with “feel good feelings” about each other?

But, fine. Datuk Seri Abdullah may raise many things to Hsein Loong while both of them are on the green. But everything is loose and informal in nature. Will they benefit the rakyat?

We still have about two more weeks before the retreat. Let us hope and pray that our leaders will be wise enough to exploit the retreat to the fullest advantage for Malaysia.

Here are some issues to be considered: pending negotiation to re-new Malaysia-Singapore Water Agreement; possible re-negotiation on the construction of a new bridge to replace the existing Causeway in Johore Bahru; payment of Peninsular Malaysia workers’ CPF now being postponed by Singapore.

Other possible issues are no more export of sand, soil and granite to the island republic; imposing levy on Singapore’s vehicles entering Malaysia; rampant encroachments on the Malaysian air-space by Singapore’s military aircrafts.

Three other issues which can also be brought up by Malaysia leaders are the alleged Singapore’s involvement in southern Thailand; the alleged Temasek Group’s buying of Malaysian GLCs shares through proxies; and Singapore’s potential investments in Iskandar Development Region.

So, agenda needs to be set. Issues must be identified and articulated according to priorities. Experts on Singapore affairs have to be mobilized.

The bottom line is that Malaysia must achieve something out of the retreat. And that something must be really worthwhile! - Ruhanie Ahmad

No comments: