How China is helping Malaysia’s military narrow the gap with Singapore, Indonesia

From new surveillance aircraft to a revamp of the naval fleet, the hardware wish list drawn up by Malaysia’s military to keep up with amply funded regional peers like Singapore and Indonesia is no small ask – especially for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cash-strapped government. With no signs of the country’s current fiscal strains going away – Najib last year slashed defence spending by 13 per cent – some industry experts are predicting a possible low-cost...
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Violence at Mahathir forum: sign of things to come for Malaysian election?

Key allies of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad and ruling party leaders on Tuesday were trading blame over an outbreak of violence at a forum featuring the ex-premier turned opposition chief, as observers warned the ugly scenes could be repeated manyfold ahead of a key election pitting the 92-year-old against Prime Minister Najib Razak. Videos of the chaotic scenes at Sunday’s town hall meeting went viral on social media within hours, as Malaysians expressed shock that Mahathir –...
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Asean and China have moved on … didn’t Vietnam get the memo?

Vietnam insists it pursues a neutral foreign policy straddling major powers China and the United States, but its emergence this year as the most strident Southeast Asian critic of Beijing’s controversial island building in the South China Sea raises questions about that stance. Hanoi’s China policy came into focus this month, as the two neighbours locked horns over an oil drilling project in a maritime block claimed by both sides, and as Vietnamese diplomats attempted to use a...
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Halimah Yacob’s presidency bid: a milestone for Singapore’s women, for race relations … not so much?

Singapore may be on the verge of a political milestone with the likely election of Halimah Yacob as its first female president next month, but controversy surrounding the vote – reserved for ethnic Malay candidates only – could take some of the shine off the achievement. And while the veteran MP and unionist’s political achievements are highly laudable – she grew up the daughter of a widowed mother who sold cooked food on a pushcart – Southeast Asia watchers say a...
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China’s Country Garden says it’s back on track in Malaysia. Is it?

The first half of 2017 has not been particularly kind to Country Garden, the Chinese property developer behind the US$100 billion metropolis being built in a special Malaysian economic zone bordering Singapore that is dubbed the “next Shenzhen”. The Hong Kong-listed developer building the sprawling Forest City development found itself at the centre of a political feud in January when the top government critic Mahathir Mohamad launched a blistering online campaign against it to...
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11 projects that show China’s influence over Malaysia – and could influence its election

Malaysia’s slew of Chinese-led infrastructure and real estate projects is in the spotlight as speculation mounts that Prime Minister Najib Razak will call a snap general election. Observers say heavy Chinese involvement in the economy could be a key issue of contention during campaigning. The government says the Chinese funds are essential to drive growth, upgrade ageing public infrastructure and create jobs for Malaysians. The opposition – led by Najib’s mentor-turned-nemesis...
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Malaysia’s Forest City adds traditional Chinese medicine to its grand plan

Forest City, the sprawling US$100 billion property development being built on artificial islands in Malaysia’s version of Shenzhen bordering Singapore, is already slated to have seafront high-tech office complexes, schools and hotels. Now, its Chinese developer, Country Garden Holdings, has unveiled plans to launch a traditional Chinese medicine hub to serve its future population of 700,000 people, many of whom will be from China. Country Garden Pacificview, the joint venture holding...
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Singapore PM’s nephew defiant as government accuses him of contempt of court

The eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang – the estranged younger brother of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – has defied an official order by the Singapore government’s lawyers to issue a public apology for a Facebook post about their family feud deemed to be an attack on the Lion City’s judiciary and a contempt of court offence. The latest development – which could potentially lead to criminal proceedings being initiated against 32-year-old Li Shengwu –...
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Malay first: Najib’s take on Malaysia’s new metro risks upsetting the Chinese

As Malaysians cheer Kuala Lumpur’s shiny new 21-billion-ringgit (HK$38 billion) metro link, Prime Minister Najib Razak seems to be doing his best to extract political mileage. But his championing of the project as a success of the government’s ‘Malay first’ policy could prove disquieting for the Chinese investors and firms whose infrastructure projects are seen as crucial to Malaysia’s fragile economy. At the official launch of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang Mass...
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Outrage at Najib plan to give Indian Muslims the same status as Malays

Questions over what makes a person a bona fide Malay has been thrust into the limelight in Singapore ahead of an upcoming presidential election reserved specially for candidates from the minority community. In neighbouring Malaysia, where Malays are in the majority and are accorded special privileges as part of decades-old affirmative action policies, the question of “Malayness” is not just an occasional hot button issue – it is at the heart of national politics. Malays and...
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In Singapore, how Malay is Malay?

An upcoming presidential poll in Singapore reserved for ethnic Malays will see the multiracial Lion City elect its first head of state from the indigenous minority community in five decades, but a divisive debate on whether the contenders are “Malay enough” is threatening to overshadow the actual vote. The September election for the ceremonial role had already proven to be a political lightning rod, with public opinion split over constitutional amendments last November that...
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Why so many Singaporeans see bike sharing as a menace

It is a weekday night in the Singaporean border town of Marsiling, and 42-year-old security guard Taufiq Mohamad is in a hurry to get home after completing a 12-hour shift. Home – located on the island’s western district of Jurong – is a 40-minute metro commute away, but the trip is less grinding for Taufiq these days as he zips to the nearest station on one of the city’s newly launched shared bicycles. This allows him to save precious minutes spent on a winding...
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Singapore will not ‘roll over’ for China

Singapore’s diplomats aren’t shrinking from any challenge to defend the Lion City’s national interest against major powers such as China, even at the risk of occasional reprisals. In an interview with This Week in Asia, Chan Heng Chee, one of the country’s top envoys, dismissed talk that the foreign ministry was split on this issue after one of its former top guns questioned whether the island state was imprudently stepping on the toes of bigger countries. In a...
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Singapore gets on board China’s Silk Road push as ties get back on track

Singapore’s rocky relations with China are “on track” with plans for high-level official visits and upgrades to a free-trade pact. Singapore also planned to ­expand its involvement in the “Belt and Road Initiative”, China’s ambitious project to revive trade along ancient Silk Road routes, the city state’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said at the two-day FutureChina business forum last week. Asked about the state of ties between the two...
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Singapore hails China’s Silk Road plans, but stresses freedom of navigation

Freedom of navigation through key choke points in Asian waterways like the Malacca and Singapore straits is crucial to the success of China’s new Silk Road trade plan, the Lion City’s Deputy Premier Teo Chee Hean said Thursday. One observer said Teo’s comments underscored the city state’s cautious but upbeat approach towards the multibillion dollar initiative aimed at boosting trade links between China and the rest of the world through new ports, railways and roads....
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Is this the end of Singapore’s Lee family row?

Questions remain over whether Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has fully weathered the political storm caused by the abuse of power allegations made against him by his estranged younger siblings, despite the two sides signalling they wish to draw a line under the saga. In a joint statement on Thursday morning, his two siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling said: “We are not politicians and do not wish to see Singapore embroiled in a never-ending public argument...
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‘I hope one day, these passions will subside’: Singapore PM seeks reconciliation with siblings

A teary eyed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday told lawmakers he hoped to one day reconcile with his estranged younger siblings who accused him of abusing his power, but warned their bitter public feud was unlikely to end any time soon. In a round-up speech following a two-day parliamentary debate on the allegations made by Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, the premier said comments by him and his ministers from the despatch box showed beyond doubt he had committed no...
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Singapore PM misled Lee Kuan Yew over family house, says brother

The estranged younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has accused the premier of misleading their father Lee Kuan Yew into thinking the government had gazetted their family house for preservation as a heritage site. It was only because he believed this to be a fait accompli that the patriarch wavered in his wish to demolish the property upon his death, Lee Hsien Yang said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. The youngest of the three Lee...
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Singapore’s PM: I am fulfilling my father’s dying wishes for 38 Oxley Road

The late Lee Kuan Yew endorsed plans to refurbish his century-old house in preparation for its possible preservation as a national monument, his eldest son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament on Monday in a revelation that sharply contradicted accusations made by his younger siblings in their ongoing public feud over the patriarch’s legacy.

Premier Lee said his father, Singapore’s revered independence leader, told the family in 2011 it was “best to redevelop…

Lee family feud: the key questions as Singapore’s PM faces grilling

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong takes centre stage on Monday as he defends himself in parliament over the explosive allegations by his younger siblings that he was abusing his powers and exploiting the legacy of their late father Lee Kuan Yew. The embattled premier has vowed that his address to lawmakers will show that Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling’s accusations have no factual basis. He has given MPs in his ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) free rein to grill him in the...
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