Refreshing to see leaders put ego aside

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019. Both leaders discussed bilateral issues, including airspace and maritime boundaries.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019. Both leaders discussed bilateral issues, including airspace and maritime boundaries.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

In a world with no lack of international parties flexing their muscles and resorting to name-calling to resolve conflicts, the commitment demonstrated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to resolve bilateral issues amicably and fruitfully infuses a breath of fresh air in terms of confidence in soft diplomacy (S'pore and KL to begin maritime boundary talks within a month, April 10).

This stride forward is not a coincidence, but a result of calibrated moves by both parties to move ahead in a friendly and constructive manner.

PM Lee penned a letter and had it personally delivered to Tun Dr Mahathir by two of his top-ranked officials; Dr Mahathir replied cordially, which made it possible for both parties to meet and start on the path towards reconciliation.

Although Singapore and Malaysia have had a long history of cooperation, any pronounced conflict can still be unnerving for people on both sides of the straits.

It is assuring to see our leaders putting aside their ego and taking the necessary steps to advance dialogue, leaving out political contemplation and old feuds.

Hard-nosed diplomacy can often escalate already burgeoning tensions.

In a world where parties battle for supremacy with the energy to conquer and dominate, we need more leaders able to exercise sufficient humility and discipline to execute deft diplomatic footwork towards conflict resolution.

Lily Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Refreshing to see leaders put ego aside'. Print Edition | Subscribe