SINGAPORE: A cross-border travel scheme facilitating trips between Malaysia and Singapore for compassionate reasons such as death and visits to loved ones who are critically ill is set to kick off on May 17.
This was confirmed in a joint statement on Sunday (May 2) by Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein, following the latter’s two-day official visit to Singapore.
The two ministers agreed during the visit to work towards the resumption of essential cross-border travel in a gradual and safe manner, the statement said.
“To this end, the two Ministers agreed on the procedures and entry requirements for death and critically ill emergency visits between Singapore and Malaysia. This agreement provides a framework to facilitate travel between the two countries for compassionate and emergency reasons,” both ministers said.
“Details of the procedures and entry requirements will be released by the respective authorities of each country, namely the Department of Immigration of Malaysia and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA). The arrangement will be implemented from May 17 onwards,” they added.
Speaking after their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore on Sunday, Dr Balakrishnan said that the scheme is “really needed because of the extensive ties of kinship between Malaysia and Singapore”.
“Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, and when family crisis occurs, people want to get together, and therefore, bearing in mind this very special close relationship between the people of Singapore and the people of Malaysia, it is necessary to have schemes like this,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
“We announce further details on the types of tests and quarantine arrangements that will be necessary in order to operationalise this scheme,” he added.
PM MUHYIDDIN’S VISIT TO SINGAPORE POSTPONED: HISHAMMUDDIN
Mr Hishammuddin also highlighted that initial plans for Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to undertake an official visit to Singapore on Monday have been postponed.
He outlined two reasons for this – that Mr Muhyiddin’s current focus is on addressing the rising COVID-19 cases in Malaysia and that given the present situation, it was not the “right environment” for both Muhyiddin and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss resumption of cross-border travel on a larger scale.
“A lot of the discussions between the two Prime Ministers, we were hoping, Vivian and I, will revolve around the gradual resumption of cross-border travel and the ease of movement between our citizens,” said Mr Hishammuddin.
“And our hope was that it could have been decided at the very highest levels between the two Prime Ministers during my Prime Minister's official visit tomorrow. But bearing in mind the current COVID-19 situation, it doesn't provide the right environment for both Prime Ministers to discuss that particular matter,” he added.
“And we have to stress that it is very challenging for both sides to come up with a concrete and safe solution on cross-border movements at the moment, and also to frame what we could announce to the public. So we both felt that it would be much more opportune for the two Prime Ministers to meet slightly at a later date, a more appropriate time, when we can announce this very important and much-awaited decision by both countries,” said Mr Hishammuddin.
READ: Singapore, Malaysia to work towards recognising COVID-19 vaccine certificates, 'progressively restore' cross-border travel
BOTH GOVERNMENTS WORKING ON MUTUAL RECOGNITION OF HEALTH CERTS
Meanwhile, Dr Balakrishnan maintained that both governments are working on the mutual recognition of health certificates, with respect to vaccination and COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test records.
“That's well under way at a technical level, and again all this is preparation for the future, when the situation improves in both Malaysia and Singapore and travel can liberalise further than where it is now,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
Mr Hishammuddin also noted that both sides discussed the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates digitally through the respective countries’ COVID-19 applications – TraceTogether and MySejahtera.
“Mutual recognition of vaccination certificates … and MySejahtera, TraceTogether need to be compatible, and we hope that by the time the two Prime Ministers meet, whether at the end of the year during their informal meeting or maybe if time or situation permits, earlier, for Tan Sri Muhyiddin to be able to make an official visit to Singapore,” said Mr Hishammuddin.
In the joint statement, the ministers said they welcomed the agreement reached by the Singapore Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation “on the mutual technical verification of health certificates issued in Singapore and Malaysia”.
They also agreed that Singapore and Malaysia would continue to make progress on their respective national vaccination programmes to vaccinate long-term residents, including Malaysians residing in Singapore and Singaporeans residing in Malaysia.
“The two Ministers agreed to continue discussions on further border re-opening measures, which should be premised on the COVID-19 situation in both countries, and the health and safety of both peoples,” the statement added.
The ministers also agreed on the importance of convening the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in Singapore “later this year, once the pandemic situation improves”, according to the statement.
During Mr Hishamuddin’s visit, the pair also discussed, following the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta on Apr 24, the recent developments in Myanmar and agreed that it was important for ASEAN and its member states to “continue playing a positive and constructive role” in facilitating a durable and peaceful solution in the interest of the people of Myanmar by following up on the chairman’s statement and the “Five-Point Consensus”.