Malaysia GE won't change the nature of ties with Singapore, says PM Najib

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his government believes in good relations with Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Domestic developments came up for mention at the eighth Singapore-Malaysia leaders' retreat on Tuesday (Jan 16).

On Malaysia, both leaders alluded to its impending general election.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong concluded his remarks by saying he looked forward to visiting Malaysia for the next leaders' retreat later in 2018, "after, probably, their general election".

Ending his speech, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he looked forward to receiving Mr Lee at the end of this year, "provided we get the right result".

Asked about the outlook for bilateral relations this year, Datuk Seri Najib said: "I don't expect elections to change the nature of relations between our two countries."

On its part, Singapore is expected to reshuffle its Cabinet as part of leadership renewal, which Mr Lee said will not affect relations. He added: "I look forward to our relations being stable and the Malaysian side taking a similar approach."

As to how the two governments can ensure long-term projects like the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link will not be affected by domestic political developments, Mr Najib said he believes Malaysian voters will "decide on an agenda that is very meaningful and productive".

He said his government believes in good relations with Singapore, and has proven that it can bring tangible benefits to the people by working closely with Singapore.

Referring to the opposition in Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib added that "the other side may have other ideas".

Malaysia's opposition coalition has named 92-year old former premier Mahathir Mohamad as its prime ministerial candidate for the country's next general election, expected to be held in months.

During Tun Dr Mahathir's time as prime minister - from 1981 to 2003 - Malaysia and Singapore disagreed publicly over a number of issues, including whether to revise water prices.

"We certainly do not want to return to confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric between our two countries," said Mr Najib.

"It was an era that we want to forget. We certainly do not want to go back to that era."

The position of his government on bilateral relations will bring mutual benefits to both Singapore and Malaysia, he added.

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