PM, Mahathir share views on building stronger ties

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who met Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya yesterday, described their meeting as warm and fruitful.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who met Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya yesterday, described their meeting as warm and fruitful.PHOTO: PM LEE/FACEBOOK

They hope to build on existing cooperation & PM invites Malaysian premier to visit S'pore and hopes regular leaders' retreats will continue

Singapore and Malaysia have made a lot of progress in bilateral cooperation over the years, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes both neighbours can continue to work together and build on what they have achieved.

He was speaking to Singapore reporters in Putrajaya yesterday after what he described as a warm and fruitful meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

"We have cooperation projects. We have issues from time to time which we have to deal with, but we have made a lot of progress with the cooperation - and we hope to continue to make further progress and build on what we have achieved in the past," Mr Lee told reporters.

"I think he shares that hope," he said of Tun Dr Mahathir.

It was the first meeting between both leaders since Dr Mahathir became Malaysia's seventh prime minister, after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition he leads won the May 9 general election, the first time the Umno-led Barisan Nasional has lost power.

PM Lee said they did not discuss any substantive bilateral issues, and his visit "was really a courtesy call for me to send him my greetings and good wishes, and to express hope that we will be able to work together on many things between Singapore and Malaysia".

He added: "We had an exchange of views - what was on his mind, what was on mine, and I think it was a warm, fruitful meeting from that point of view."

Dr Mahathir's Facebook page said that they spoke for 30 minutes about the bilateral relationship.

In a Facebook post, PM Lee said: "We had a good chat about the Singapore-Malaysia relationship, which is deep, multi-faceted, and close. Dr Mahathir and I both shared our thoughts on how we can strengthen our ties."

He also told reporters he had invited Dr Mahathir to visit Singapore as prime minister, and expressed hope that they would be able to continue having regular retreats that the PMs of Singapore and Malaysia have taken turns to host each year.

In fact, the first such leaders' retreat involved Dr Mahathir - who was Malaysia's fourth premier from 1981 to 2003 - and former PM Goh Chok Tong, in 1994. And it was held in Langkawi, which is Dr Mahathir's constituency today.

"I hope that after he has settled some of his domestic priorities, which he has many, he will be able to follow it up," PM Lee said, adding that he also looked forward to receiving Dr Mahathir in Singapore at the Asean Summit in November.

Asked if the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project, which Dr Mahathir had said he would review, was raised, PM Lee said they did not discuss the issue.

The meeting with Dr Mahathir was held at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, where he is honorary president. It was started in 2003 for the study of Malaysian leadership.

The PMs were accompanied by their wives, Mrs Lee and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Malaysia's Foreign Ministry secretary-general Ramlan Ibrahim. PM Lee and Mrs Lee also met PH de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, Deputy Prime Minister and Women and Family Development Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 20, 2018, with the headline 'PM, Mahathir share views on building stronger ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe