Singapore, Malaysia leaders must interact more

Earlier this year, there were signs showing that cooperation between Malaysia and Singapore was intensifying.

After the change of government in Malaysia on May 9, however, there emerged an uncertainty on whether this collaborative dynamic would continue.

Singapore has always treated Malaysia as a very important economic, security and political partner. The fates of the two nations are inseparable in many ways.

But how is the new Malaysian government thinking of us? Many leaders of the two nations appear not to know their counterparts well.

At the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue early this month, the defence ministers of Malaysia and Singapore signed a new bilateral defence agreement. This showed that the mutual trust on defence issues was not affected.

Regardless, political leaders in the two countries should start interacting more to forge better acquaintances and friendships.

The new Malaysian government has unilaterally announced that it would review some bilateral projects with Singapore. Its Finance Minister has also said that Malaysia would like to compete with Singapore.

Healthy rule-based competition is good. But both sides must uphold a proper give-and-take attitude and should not use it to defeat their counterparts at all costs.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore, Malaysia leaders must interact more'. Print Edition | Subscribe