Ties with Malaysia, Indonesia are good despite differences

On Thursday, Mr Lee will have a leaders' retreat in Semarang, Indonesia, where SembCorp has a joint venture to build the Kendal Industrial Park (above).
On Thursday, Mr Lee will have a leaders' retreat in Semarang, Indonesia, where SembCorp has a joint venture to build the Kendal Industrial Park (above). PHOTO: SEMBCORP DEVELOPMENT LTD

Differences with Malaysia and Indonesia, which will emerge now and then, should not affect Singapore's broader cooperation with them, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

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-adik attitude towards us; it hasn't changed since we became independent," he said, using the Malay words for elder and younger 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.

[Quotatation Statement Here.]

THE THIRD NEIGHBOUR

We are a little bit like Mongolia... because (of) their neighbours, two huge ones, much bigger than them. One is China, one is Russia. So if you ask the Mongolians how many neighbours they have, they say they have three neighbours... Who is the third neigbour? The "third neighbour" is Japan... the US... South Korea... the European Union. These are all Mongolia's "third neighbours". So in the same way, Singapore also has two neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, and we have "third neighbours" all over the world.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, pointing out similarities between Singapore and Mongolia, two countries whose immediate neighbours are much larger than them.

Mr Lee was in Putrajaya last month 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. "The durian was good, the High Speed Rail will be better," he quipped.

On Indonesia, Mr Lee said he meets President Joko Widodo regularly 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.

Chong Zi Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Ties with Malaysia, Indonesia are good despite differences'. Print Edition | Subscribe