Groups in the southern Malaysian state of Johor have welcomed Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Hasni Mohammad’s call for the state to be more involved in efforts to reopen the border with Singapore.
Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Low Kueck Shin said state leaders had a better understanding of the economic and social interdependence between Johor and Singapore.
Low said: “Their understanding of the public sentiment here goes beyond the surface and not just in terms of economic recovery, but also in other aspects such as family ties.
“Previously, our prime minister and foreign minister were Johor MPs [members of Parliament] who drove the discussion for the reopening of the border, but this is no longer the case with the change in government.
“As such, it is more important than ever to have state leaders here be more involved in these discussions.”
Malaysian-Singapore Workers Task Force president Dayalan Sreebalan lauded Hasni’s call, adding that there should also be a state-level committee focusing on the reopening of the border and issues faced by Malaysians working in the republic.
He said: “That way, both the federal and state governments can have a clearer picture of the issues faced by Malaysians working in Singapore.
“I also hope that the government will involve NGOs like us, which are in constant contact with Malaysians in Singapore, in the committee.
“We can provide meaningful insights on the standard operating procedure and policies that would work with regard to the reopening of the border.”
Dayalan added that issues related to the standard operating procedure (SOP) on travel between Johor and Singapore were among the biggest problems faced by Malaysians.
Umno Youth executive council member Bastien Onn said the Singapore and Malaysian governments, along with Johor state representatives, should engage more to produce a workable solution for the reopening of the border.
He said: “Both sides need to sit down and discuss a solution instead of merely pointing out the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are moving to the endemic phase and should now be focusing on ways to bring normalcy back into people’s lives, bit by bit.
“Apart from political leaders, the discussion should also include industry captains and authorities, particularly those managing the border, from both sides.”
Johor Malaysian Chinese Association government coordinating affairs chairman Michael Tay suggested that efforts to reopen the border be led by the Menteri Besar.
He said: “The management of the pandemic, including the reopening of the border, should be decentralised to pave the way for the state government to be more actively involved.
“The state government should also focus on opening up our tourism industry, including creating a travel bubble in the state.”
Johor Malay NGOs Coalition Council president Zaini Atan said the safe reopening of the border was vital for the economy.
“The reopening of the border is important, but we must make sure that it is done safely and with a clear and strict SOP. State leaders should be directly involved in the discussion to set the SOP,” he added.
Last week, Hasni told the state assembly that Johor should be directly involved in initiatives to reopen the border with Singapore.
He said the reopening would boost the retail and tourism sectors, as well as economic activities in state capital Johor Baru and adjacent districts.
He called for the state government to be directly involved in efforts to reopen the land border at the Johor Causeway and the Second Link.
THE STAR (MALAYSIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK