Friday, April 06, 2007

Still need passport

Malaysia has scrapped the plan for two passport-free zones in the southern Johor state (Photo from VnExpress) next to Singapore, according to reports. The move followed criticism by former Malaysian premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad that such zones could compromise the country's sovereignty. Please see excerpt of ST report below:

The two zones - one was to be set up on each side of the Causeway - would have allowed Singaporeans and other foreigners to move in and out without having to get their passports stamped.

The idea aimed to attract Singaporeans and other Singapore-based foreigners who were in the market for cheaper housing, dining and entertainment.

But the issue turned out to be a political hot potato. Some Malaysians feared such zones would reduce Malaysia's control over its territory.

Dr Mahathir went even further.

Responding to a question on the plan for a passport-free zone in the South Johor Economic Region, he said the idea was like giving up sovereignty to other countries.

'If we allow this...then it means it is not our territory any more. Many types of people enter Singapore,' he said at that time. 'They have an Israeli Embassy there. It means even Jews can come in.'

Malaysia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel as it is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, so such statements stirred up anger.

Hints of trouble surfaced when Dr Mahathir played the nationalist and anti-Singapore card in January this year. The passport-free zone is just one component of the grand plan called Iskandar to develop southern Johor. With or without the passport-free zones, the entire development blueprint is still fraught with difficulties despite the grand vision.

No comments: