'Big dreams' for future of Singapore and Malaysia

Both nations have greater stakes in each other's success: President Tan

President Tan at the ceremonial welcome with (to his left) Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and (behind them) Mrs Mary Tan and (partially hidden) Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah Haji Hamidun, and PM Najib Razak with h
President Tan at the ceremonial welcome with (to his left) Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and (behind them) Mrs Mary Tan and (partially hidden) Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah Haji Hamidun, and PM Najib Razak with his wife Rosmah Mansor. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

With ties in an excellent state, Singapore and Malaysia are now "dreaming big together" to forge a better future for their peoples, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday as the Malaysians rolled out the red carpet for his first state visit to their country.

It reflects the new era in their bilateral relations, which Dr Tan traced to the close partnership in recent years between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

Both leaders meet yearly for a retreat that has led to major agreements like the historic land swop deal in 2010 involving Malaysian Railway land in Singapore, and a 2011 agreement on the joint development of projects in Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia.

This bond has had a rippling effect, with cooperation extending across many fields, including transport, communications, arts, culture and education, the President said at a state banquet hosted by Malaysia's King and Queen at Istana Negara last night.

Similarly, the private sectors of both sides have "built on this confidence", he noted.

"Our countries now have greater stakes in each other's success," he said, adding that projects like the proposed high-speed rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will further enhance economic and people-to-people interactions.

"We are dreaming big together, so our peoples will gain an enriching and secure future together," he said.

The 73-year-old President, who has visited Malaysia many times in various capacities, also reflected on the changes: "I have watched the country transform over the years, making great strides in social and economic development."

Earlier, he took in these changes first-hand during a State drive from Parliament Square to his hotel, accompanied by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah. They passed such historical landmarks as Merdeka Square, the National Mosque and Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, against a backdrop dominated by modern skyscrapers.

Dr Tan, who is on a three-day visit, was particularly struck by the mix of old and new. "The Petronas Twin Towers stand tall and proud alongside old heritage buildings, each setting off the grandeur and beauty of the other.

"During our drive together today, I reflected that through it all, Malaysia has kept its heart and soul. Like the Kuala Lumpur of my youth, the city is still vibrant, colourful, and full of possibilities," he said.

The drive was a highlight of a busy day that began with the King and Queen giving a ceremonial welcome which included a 21-gun salute, to the President and his wife Mary at Parliament Square.

In keeping with the spirit of the visit, Dr Tan wore a blue shirt while the Agong wore a white shirt with a red tie and pocket square - together forming the colours of both countries' flags. Their wives wore pale green.

In his speech at the state banquet, Tuanku Abdul Halim shared the President's sentiments on the long-standing partnership between their nations and the importance of enhancing connectivity across borders, which will have multiplier effects on their social and economic development.

"We know of many important initiatives to usher in a new era of greater and more comprehensive partnership," he said.

Both also pledged their countries' commitment to work closely on Asean, which Malaysia will chair in 2015 - the target for regional economic integration under the Asean community.

Earlier in the day, PM Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor called on Dr and Mrs Tan.

The leaders, who held similar portfolios as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence and Education Ministers in the past, chatted before the official call.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said they reaffirmed excellent bilateral ties and the need to strengthen institutional links at all levels. They agreed there should be more cooperation between their public and private sectors. Dr Tan and PM Najib also welcomed the rapidly expanding economic ties, including the enhanced connectivity and twinning of economic activities between Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia.


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