Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Misconceptions of Sovereignty and the Iskandar Development Region

Written by johnleemk on 2:18:20 pm Jun 3, 2007.
Categories: ,

In Malaysia, the citizens are sometimes excessively pettily obsessed with the trappings of sovereignty. There is always a great fury of chest-beating and rabblerousing whenever a foreign entity is perceived to be taking too great a role in how something local is run.

The Iskandar Development Region in Johor is a good example of this. Exhibiting the Malaysian-Singaporean inferiority complex, a larrge number of politicians have made alarmist declarations of the IDR becoming an extension of Singapore and of Malaysia losing its sovereignty over that territory.

In reality, how you look at most questions of sovereignty depends entirely on your perspective. I personally view the IDR project as actually Malaysia exerting its sovereignty over Singapore.

How so? After all, aren't Singapore firms going to be involved in the running and management of the IDR? Isn't Singapore taking an investment stake in the IDR? And aren't Singaporean citizens going to be given special treatment in the immigration process when visiting the IDR?

All true, of course. However, what this is doing is making Singapore dependent on us! If the IDR fails, Singapore's investments go down the drain — meaning they have every incentive to make the IDR work.

Even though Singaporean firms will have a hand in the management of the IDR, this does not squeeze Malaysians out entirely. By lending their expertise to the project, the Singaporeans have no choice but to teach Malaysians how to run this thing — meaning we are colonising their brainpower and ideas, and taking them for ourselves.

It is true that Singaporeans will be given easier access across the border into the IDR, but so what? What is the practical benefit of keeping Singaporeans out anyway?

Besides, by allowing more Singaporeans in, again, it is us who will be asserting our sovereignty. We will be taking their money in exchange for providing them with our goods and services — and we are the ones who decide what goods and services to provide!

In effect, it is us who will be controlling what goods these Singaporeans consume, and it will be us who decide what services these Singaporeans should get.

When you think of it that way, the situation can be seen in a completely different light. After all, you can't help but pity the pathetic Singaporeans who are driven into the arms of Malaysians to get the things they need, and escape from their cooped-up environment in that tiny island of theirs.

Worse still, they have to pay for the pleasures that we provide, and even though some of their expertise is being lent to that venture, there is nothing keeping the Malaysians involved from learning the ropes from their management examples.

If we stop allowing ourselves to be subverted by our inferiority complex, we will be motivated to assert our sovereignty and better ourselves — to take full advantage of the Singaporean managerial experience and the Singaporean consumers which will be coming our way.

The result will be a much better future for residents along both sides of the Tebrau Straits, and a lot less pointless grumbling about a false loss of sovereignty.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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