National Day Rally 2016: Differences with Malaysia, Indonesia should not affect cooperation

PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak shaking hands during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Singapore-KL high-speed rail, on July 19, 2016.
PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak shaking hands during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Singapore-KL high-speed rail, on July 19, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee hosting Indonesia President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana to a meal of nasi lemak on Nov 22, 2014.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee hosting Indonesia President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana to a meal of nasi lemak on Nov 22, 2014.PHOTO: MCI

SINGAPORE - Differences with Malaysia and Indonesia, which will come up from time to time, should not affect Singapore's broader cooperation with them, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Aug21).

Describing the two countries as Singapore's "most important partners", he added: "From time to time there will be differences because of their deep seated attitudes towards us."

He noted that an Indonesian minister had recently said he was not afraid of Singapore because it is just a small country.

"It's an abang attitude towards us, it hasn't changed since we became independent," he said, using the Malay word for elder brother.

Still, Mr Lee said relations with Malaysia and Indonesia were good, and listed the various areas of cooperation with both countries such as in infrastructure building, industrial investment, and solving environmental problems.

Mr Lee was in Putrajaya to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the High Speed Rail between Singapore and Malaysia, and was hosted to lunch by his Malaysian counterpart.


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and PM Lee Hsien Loong enjoying a light-hearted moment over durian during lunch on July 19, 2016. PHOTO: HO CHING

"The durian was good, the High Speed Rail will be better," he quipped.

On Indonesia, Mr Lee said he meets regularly with President Joko Widodo, and they will work together to tackle the trans-boundary haze problem.

They are also discussing enhancing economic cooperation and encouraging Singapore companies to invest more in Indonesia.

On Thursday, Mr Lee will have a leaders' retreat in Semarang, Indonesia, where SembCorp has a joint venture to build the Kendal Industrial Park, an industrial estate that will house furniture, garment and automotive industries.