A railway is not just an economic calculation of profits and mobility, it also has an emotional perspective. A railway is able to connect the hearts and mind of people in order to create a sense of common destiny and objective. Before the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II initiated a railway project, the Hejaz Railway, in order to unify the Muslim Ummah, to connect the seat of the Caliphate, Constantinople to the heart of the Muslim world, Mecca. Due to the physical structure of the tracks which leads to its destination, it embeds a sentimental feeling of hope, dreams, nostalgia and friendship.
Political difference aside, I view the railway initiative in the most positive aspect. This is the first major step among all others to the integration of Singapore into the Federation of Malaysia. Today, things are becoming much more clearer as to where the Singapore and Malaysia will be heading to. It is easier for Singapore to integrate with Malaysia than for the whole of ASEAN to integrate among themselves. As recent as last month, in Davos, Najib said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria:
"There is realisation between Lee Hsien Loong and myself that we have to put the past behind us.The economies of Malaysia and Singapore are inextractably linked. Iskandar, for example, is hugely dependent on Singapore, just as Singapore is dependent on Malaysia - they need the space and costs are going up in Singapore. I told him you can be Manhattan but I could be New Jersey"
ASEAN wants to unite 600 million over people in a single economic community. But there are a lot political problem which will hinder the process. Just look at the recent security lapse in Sabah whereby 400 armed men from the Royal Sulu Army landed in Lahad Datu, Sabah. It is a small incident to the bigger picture that is the claim Philippines has on Sabah. Territorial claims and separatist movements still hinders the ambitions of a unified economic community.
All this while we have been hearing nonsensical views about the enmity and stereotyping of each other across the Causeway bridge. The defence strategy and the justification as to why huge resources are allocated, one of the excuse is that Malaysia will invade us, that the most possible invaders will come from the north. Yes, the Japanese came from the north!
Many still can't contemplate certain policies being implemented in Singapore, like the possibility of the New Economic Policy (NEP), moral policing or Singapore having to use ringgit and so on. But we don't have to look at it at a partisan perspective. Malaysia is undergoing a regime change, it's socio-political culture will change hopefully for the better. Najib/BN, LHL/PAP or Anwar/PR in power will not change the fact that Singapore-Malaysia relation will be of utmost importance for both in the near future. For Singapore, we won't have to think of having a population target but instead rely on transmigration from Malaysia when the need for labor arises.
Singapore, Malaysia to build high-speed rail link