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Amid cross border tensions, Malaysians working in Singapore hope rice bowls unaffected

JOHOR BARU — Malaysian A Nanang (not his real name) has been working at an adhesive company in Singapore for the past six years where he rose up the ranks from an apprentice to senior staffer.

Amid cross border tensions, Malaysians working in Singapore hope rice bowls unaffected

Over 450,000 people are estimated to enter and exit Singapore from Johor via both border crossings daily.

JOHOR BARU — Malaysian A Nanang (not his real name) has been working at an adhesive company in Singapore for the past six years where he rose up the ranks from an apprentice to senior staffer.

The 35-year-old, who is originally from Kuching in Sarawak, enjoys his work in Singapore despite travelling more than 50km daily from his rented house in Johor Baru.

However, Mr Nanang cannot help but be dismayed by the recent territorial dispute between the two neighbours, fearing that ordinary people like him may bear the brunt.

“To me, the issue could have been better managed by both governments," he said.

“My fear is that the issue could trigger other unwanted difficulties for people like me who just want to work,” he added.

Mr Nanang said he may not have been born in Johor, but he feels he understands the symbiotic relationship shared by both countries. “In many ways, despite good or bad times, we need each other as there is an established bond between us."

“I really hope that the situation simmers soon as politicians on both sides have to understand that many people in south Johor depend on Singapore and vice-versa,” said Mr Nanang.

Johor Baru resident Jimmy Chow, 38, who works as a construction coordinator in Singapore, hopes that both governments can sit down and discuss the maritime and airspace issues in more detail.

He said the tit-for-tat statements from both sides were making the situation more tense and not helping people like him, as well as businesses in Johor Baru, where a majority depend on Singaporeans for business.

“Many fail to see that the ‘victims’ will ultimately be Johoreans,” said Mr Chow, adding that Singaporeans go to Johor for food and car services.

However, Mr Chow said that some of his Singaporean co-workers were also sympathetic about the situation as they feel Johoreans will be the first to be hit if the situation turns serious.

“I travel in and out of Singapore via the Tuas (checkpoint) six days a week by car due to my job.

“Things for me are already tough as it is, so the current Malaysia and Singapore territorial issue may affect my travels to my workplace in Singapore,” he said.

However, there are others like Malaysian Fazli Syam M Shah, 33, who is confident that the current diplomatic row will not affect his work in Singapore.

“Despite what the two governments say, at the end of the day, the reality is that Singaporeans still need the skilled workforce that is readily available in Malaysia.

“Singaporeans know this and it would not be ideal for the current diplomatic row to also affect the economy,” said Mr Fazli Syam, who works as a property maintenance executive in Hougang, Singapore.

Another Malaysian, G Kumar, 28, echoed Mr Fazli Syam’s view.

The factory worker, who works in Pioneer Crescent near Tuas, hopes that the disagreements between the two sides will be resolved soon.

“For people like me who are blue-collar workers, we just want to work hard for a decent living back in Malaysia,” added Mr Kumar.

It is estimated that more than 450,000 people enter and exit Singapore from Johor via the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints on a daily basis.

Singaporeans also frequently flock to Johor in the thousands during weekends and holidays in search of bargains, cheaper entertainment and food.

But tensions between the two neighbours heightened after Singapore strongly protested against Malaysia’s move to unilaterally extend Johor Baru's port limits, while Putrajaya opposed the Republic's plans to implement an Instrument Landing System for Seletar Airport.

Officials from the two countries are due to meet in the second week of January next year. MALAY MAIL 

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