Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein is in Singapore for an Official Visit. This is his first Official Visit to Singapore in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Minister Hishammuddin called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean. During the calls, Prime Minister Lee and Senior Minister Teo reaffirmed the deep and longstanding ties between Singapore and Malaysia. They welcomed further exchanges between the Ministers and officials of both sides to strengthen cooperation in confronting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign Minister Hishammuddin also met Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. They had fruitful discussions on bilateral cooperation, including the importance of re-opening our borders in a gradual and safe manner, given our extensive economic and people-to-people linkages. The two Foreign Ministers agreed to formalise a framework for cross-border travel for compassionate reasons. Minister Balakrishnan and Minster Hishammuddin also 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, which will facilitate discussions on cross-border travel arrangements for our peoples in the future.
Minister Balakrishnan will join Foreign Minister Hishammuddin in the breaking of his fast this evening, following which Foreign Minister Hishammuddin and his delegation will return to Malaysia.
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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
2 MAY 2021
DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
DATO’ SERI HISHAMMUDDIN TUN HUSSEIN
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
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2 MAY 2021
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF MALAYSIADATO’ SERI HISHAMMUDDIN TUN HUSSEIN, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SINGAPORE, 2 MAY 2021 AT 1116 HRS
Minister Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein: At the outset I would like to thank Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, for inviting me over today. And I am very happy to have our delegation here. But it is important for me to announce that, unfortunately, plans for my Prime Minister to undertake an Official Visit to Singapore tomorrow have to be postponed. One, because of the current focus that he has, to address the rising COVID-19 numbers in Malaysia. And secondly, a lot of the discussions between the two Prime Ministers, we were hoping – Vivian and I – would have revolved around the gradual resumption of cross-border travel, and the ease of movement between our citizens. And our hope was that it could have been decided at the very highest level between the two Prime Ministers during my Prime Minister's Official Visit tomorrow. But bearing in mind the current COVID-19 situation, it does not provide the right environment for both Prime Ministers to discuss that particular matter.
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 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 at a slightly later date, on a more appropriate time, when we can announce this very important and much awaited decision by both countries.
Notwithstanding, Vivian and I will continue with our negotiations. I do not need to go into details. But for cross-border movements, I am happy to announce together with Vivian, that the Death and Critically Ill Emergency Visits arrangement has been concluded, and we hope to implement it by 17 May 2021, this month. It will require the agencies to finalise certain details. Reciprocal Green Lane and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement was also discussed. The Air Travel Bubble will require further negotiations between the Transport Ministries on both sides. Mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, recognition digitally, is underway. MySejahtera and TraceTogether will need to be compatible.
We hope that by the time the two Prime Ministers meet, whether at the end of the year during the informal meeting, or maybe in time when our situation permits earlier, Tan Sri Muhyiddin would be able to make an official visit to Singapore.
Finally, the both of us discussed the situation in Myanmar, what was achieved in Jakarta recently by the leaders of ASEAN, and how we have to make sure that the five points that had been agreed upon continues to be worked on, and (that we continue our) engagement with all the relevant stakeholders. We were very pleased with the outcome in Jakarta, but still a lot of work needs to be done in finding the way forward with regard to what has been unfolding in Myanmar. Thank you.
Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: Thank you, Hisham. Let me first say how glad I am to welcome Dato’ Seri Hisham to Singapore. This is his first official visit as the Foreign Minister of Malaysia.
The second point I want to make is that I understand the reasons for the postponement of Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s visit to Singapore. I think given the volatile nature of the COVID-19 situation on both sides, it makes sense to focus primarily on the domestic control of the pandemic,whilst Dato’ Seri Hisham and I continue to do our homework on the parameters for the schemes that can be announced later.
As far as today is concerned, I think Dato’ Seri Hisham has already announced that we have settled the details for the compassionate travel scheme, and that will begin on 17 May 2021. This is a scheme which is needed because of the extensive ties of kinship between Malaysia and Singapore – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and cousins. When family crises occur, people want to get together. Therefore, bearing in mind this very special and close relationship between the people of Singapore and the people of Malaysia, it is necessary to have schemes like this. We will announce further details on the types of tests and quarantine arrangements, which will be necessary in order to operationalise this scheme.
Work is also going on for the mutual recognition of health certificates. This is with respect to vaccination records and Polymerase Chain Reaction test records. That is well underway at a technical level. All this is preparation for the future, when the situation improves in both Malaysia and Singapore, and travel can be liberalised further than where it is now.
Another point worth emphasising is that if you look back over the past one year, no matter how bad things got – either in Malaysia or in Singapore – we have never completely closed the borders. Our essential supply chains, the lorries delivering important medication, food, and other supplies, have continued to flow. That is why we have also made the extra effort to vaccinate the Malaysian truck drivers. This is something which I had discussed beforehand with you and I got your agreement for. These are examples, again, of the very special relationship between Malaysia – and obviously especially Johor – and Singapore, and why we have to continue to make special arrangements for this special relationship to continue, even in times of crisis.
All in all, I am very glad that you are here, and to welcome you back to Singapore. We have known each other for two decades, and I can assure you that we will continue to work very closely together even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge both our countries. Rest assured, we will work very closely together, we will support each other, and our people-to-people ties will be protected and nurtured. Thank you all very much.
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