Malaysia will continue negotiating with Singapore on border reopening: Foreign Minister Saifuddin
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government will continue to negotiate with the Singapore authorities on the gradual reopening of borders, based on the prevailing health situation in both countries, said Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
Speaking during his ministerial reply on the motion of thanks on the Royal Address in parliament on Thursday (Sep 23), Mr Saifuddin maintained that as the COVID-19 situation in both countries had not yet subsided, both Malaysia and Singapore will continue to implement strict health regulations regarding cross-border movements.
“Even though the vaccination rates for both countries have more or less reached 80 per cent, the reopening of borders involves various parties and important factors to consider,” said Mr Saifuddin.
“Nevertheless, it remains a priority for the Government to continue negotiating with Singapore regarding the gradual reopening of borders in phases, depending on the prevailing health situation,” he added.
He also highlighted that negotiations included cross-border movement schemes like the Daily Commuting Arrangement (DCA).
The DCA scheme was previously proposed by the Johor State Government. In an interview with CNA in November 2020, Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad said the proposed scheme will facilitate the movement of up to 30,000 commuters each day across the two land checkpoints between Singapore and Malaysia.
In order to facilitate this, he said that the state government would, for instance, issue travel passes every 10 days, and commuters could use the passes to travel across the border for about three times within that period.
The Benut state assemblyman explained that this scheme will be useful for students as well as Malaysians employed in Singapore who need to commute to and fro every day.
In his speech, Mr Saifuddin said DCA was still at the “proposal stage” and there were “many things that still needed to be refined before it can be implemented”.
He added that for any proposal on the reopening of borders, the main issue to be taken into consideration was the question of “health and safety of the people, in addition to the current COVID-19 situation in both Malaysia and Singapore”.
In his speech, Mr Saifuddin also said that he was aware that the prolonged border closures between Singapore and Malaysia is impacting many Malaysians who have been separated from their loved ones throughout the pandemic.
However, he noted that these Malaysians who are working in Singapore can utilise schemes such as the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) to return home for leave to meet their family and settle private affairs.
The PCA allows Singapore and Malaysia citizens or permanent residents (PRs) who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Hasni said that the Johor state government will be submitting a proposal to the federal government on the protocols regarding the implementation of the DCA.
He said that the proposal was agreed upon and consented to during the state’s special committee meeting on security held on Thursday.
“The state government will send the proposed standard operating procedures for the border opening scheme under the DCA to the special committee on pandemic management,” Mr Hasni added.
In the same statement, Mr Hasni also outlined that the Johor state government was striving to record data of Johor residents who were vaccinated in Singapore, and have this information updated on Malaysia’s contact tracing mobile application MySejahtera.
Mr Hasni also thanked Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin for contacting his Singapore counterparts to obtain relevant data of Johor residents who received their vaccination doses in Singapore.
He said that as of Wednesday, 73.3 per cent of the adult population in Johor have been fully vaccinated.