PM says the most important thing is to continue the good relations, even if there would be differences
By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By BERNAMA
Malaysia strives to continue good relations with Singapore, described as “the younger twin” by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Dr Mahathir, who began his official working trip to the island republic yesterday, likened Malaysia and Singapore to twins, except that “the elder twin is a little bit bigger and older than the younger twin”.
“But we have been able to live together in reasonably harmonious terms,” he said at the official luncheon hosted for him and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, by his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching at The Istana.
“It is not often that you see countries which came together and then separated, and still able to work together and help each other,” he said.
Dr Mahathir took the opportunity to record Malaysia’s appreciation for the
help extended by Singapore regarding the financial issues the former recently faced.
“We will always appreciate that. If there is any way we can return the hospitality, we will try to do so,” he said, without referring to any specific assistance.
However, it is believed to be Singapore’s agreement to suspend the construction of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project until the end of May 2020.
Following Malaysia’s re- quest for the deferment, Putrajaya agreed to pay an abortive cost of S$15 million (RM45.44 million) to the Singapore government by Jan 31, 2019.
Dr Mahathir said the most important thing is to continue the good relations between the two countries, even if there would be some differences.
“There will also be competition, but the competition is always healthy. It helps us to really make an effort to win in any competition. This will help us grow even faster,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia and Singapore are mutually dependent.
“Singapore has got no hinterland, but must regard Malaysia as its hinterland.
“On the other hand, for a very long time Malaysia had to depend on Singapore for its exports and imports because Singapore has developed into a great port that iscomparable to the greatest in the world.”
Singapore is the country’s second-largest trading partner after China. The total bilateral trade between Malaysia and Singapore in 2017 stood at RM220.88 billion. The figure represented 12.9% of Malaysia’s global trade.
Dr Mahathir also said Malaysia and Singapore have a role to play in South-East Asia and both can be very effective in helping the growth of the whole region.
The PM, who will join nine other heads of government for the 33rd Asean Summit and Related Summits, said Asean members should always hold onto the founding principles.
“If we can remember Asean was formed by five countries, including Singapore, not mainly because of economic links, but because we have to solve problems of close relations with the neighbours.
“When we became independent, we were very aggressive in many instances and we confronted each other. We did not regard each other as friends and neighbours. We saw each other as strong competitors who were not going to do any good for us.
“But it happened after the confrontation with Indonesia. Indonesian leaders decided that there was nothing to be gained from the confrontation and they suggested the Asean grouping of five countries. And from five, we have grown into 10 countries,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said not many regional associations throughout the world had survived, unlike Asean.
“Asean has not only survived, but continued to work closely together, and hopefully will continue to do so.”
Before the luncheon, Dr Mahathir paid a courtesy call onto Singapore President Halimah Yacob at The Istana, followed by a bilateral meeting with Lee.
Dr Mahathir and wife also unveiled a robust tropical orchid which was named after them, “Dendrobium Mahathir Siti Hasmah”.
Each of the mahogany-purple orchid flower measures about 5cm in width.
Later in the evening, Dr Mahathir also spent an hour with some 500 Malaysians living in Singapore.