PM Lee to meet Mahathir in Putrajaya next month

Leaders' Retreat, postponed from last Nov, will be first to be hosted by Pakatan govt

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will meet his Malaysian counterpart, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in Putrajaya next month for the 9th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat.

The annual meeting, an important platform to strengthen cooperation and discuss bilateral issues, was to have been held last November, but was postponed.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Malaysia had proposed that the retreat be held from April 8 to 9, and Singapore has agreed.

This Leaders' Retreat is the first to be hosted under the leadership of the Pakatan Harapan government, which came to power in May last year.

The dates of the retreat were earlier disclosed by Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Tuesday, as part of the country's parliamentary proceedings.

Selayang MP William Leong had filed a question on the current state of Malaysia's relationship with Singapore, in the light of the recent maritime border and airspace disputes.

Datuk Saifuddin, in a prepared answer, said the Malaysian government will continue to seek and explore new areas of cooperation to further strengthen Malaysia-Singapore ties.

At the same time, priority will be given to resolving bilateral issues peacefully, through discussion and negotiation.

He also mentioned the upcoming Leaders' Retreat, calling it an important mechanism and platform to strengthen cooperation and find solutions together for bilateral issues.

Mr Saifuddin said the closeness between the countries is reflected in the exchange of visits between leaders, since the Pakatan Harapan came to power.

He cited his visit to Singapore in January, and working visits to the Republic by others, such as Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

Mr Saifuddin said the Malaysian government will continue these interactions actively.

"The ongoing diplomatic efforts reflect both governments' commitment towards maintaining good existing ties and understanding on resolving bilateral issues for the sake of mutual interests," he noted.

On a broader note, Mr Saifuddin said the Malaysian government always upholds the principle of forging good and friendly ties with all countries, including Singapore.

He said that as a country in a region that is inter-connected, Malaysia wants its neighbours to be prosperous and successful because their success would have spillovers into the region.

Conversely, any difficulties they face would have an adverse effect on the region, including Malaysia, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'PM Lee to meet Mahathir in Putrajaya next month'. Print Edition | Subscribe