KUALA LUMPUR - Ties between Singapore and Malaysia have been forged over many years and are anchored in mutual trust and respect, President Halimah Yacob said on Wednesday (Sept 19) as she encouraged Singaporeans who work and live in Malaysia to maintain the strong networks and friendships.
Speaking at a breakfast reception for Singaporeans here at the Singapore High Commission on the second day of her visit, she said it was important for these ties to remain strong, as Singapore and Malaysia are "very important countries in Asean" and shared similar cultures.
"We want Asean to prosper. Asean prospers only because the countries within it are strong, independent, respect, and work well with each other. Asean presents tremendous opportunity for us," she said, citing the grouping's population and size of its economy.
She added that Singaporeans abroad played a crucial role as "ambassadors" in other countries because the friendships and networks built are the most enduring aspects of any bilateral relationship.
In her speech, she noted that many Singaporeans still have family members and friends living in Malaysia, and vice versa, and there is a sense of familiarity on both sides.
"The linkages between Singapore and Malaysia have been built up over many years and are anchored in mutual trust and respect," she added.
Both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean visited Malaysia after the May 9 General Election.
Madam Halimah is on her first official visit to Malaysia as president, and said she had met several Malaysian leaders including Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. On Tuesday, she met Malaysia's King, Sultan Muhammad V. She also witnessed the University of Malaya-National University of Singapore (UM-NUS) annual games, and met UM Chancellor Sultan Nazrin Shah, who is Deputy King.
Madam Halimah noted that Singapore has welcomed several visiting Malaysian ministers in the last few months, adding that she was especially happy to meet one of them, Minister of Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin, during an event at Tanjong Katong Girls' School in Singapore in July. Both Madam Halimah and Madam Zuraida are alumni of the school.
Several of the new Pakatan Harapan ministers and deputy ministers had also studied in Singapore.
"I'm very happy that ministers are making an effort to meet each other, to strengthen our relationship. That's how it should be," she added.
Madam Halimah also urged the Singaporean community to keep in touch with developments back home.
Madam Halimah, who is accompanied by her spouse, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, also officiated the opening of a new heritage gallery at the Singapore High Commission that documents historic moments in the relationship between the two countries - including how Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya with Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia, its separation in 1965 and how ties have grown since then.
Among those present was Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon.