SINGAPORE: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president-elect Anwar Ibrahim stressed that there are “no problems” between Singapore and Malaysia and pledged to visit the city-state when he becomes prime minister.
Mr Anwar was responding to a question on Singapore-Malaysia relations by former Singapore Member of Parliament Zainul Abidin Mohamed Rasheed at a forum during the Singapore Summit on Saturday (Sep 15).
“Are there any problems? I don't see any problems. It's just perception and also style,” said Mr Anwar.
“Singaporeans are too serious and business-like. We (Malaysians) are a bit cultured ... a bit relaxed ... a bit give and take. Singaporeans (are) dollars and cents,” he added.
Mr Anwar said that the relations are strong economically and historically.
“We cannot fail. I wouldn’t think it is sensible to create anyproblems between the two countries.”
Mr Anwar acknowledged that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad “was firm on some of the earlier contracts” he dealt with Singapore, but said that the matter should be “confined to those particular problems” and resolved there.
Some tension between the two countries were revived when Dr Mahathir, after becoming prime minister in May, raised a thorny bilateral issue - the water accord between Singapore and Malaysia - and proposed scrapping the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail project that was agreed upon under the previous Najib administration.
“Its not all dollars and cents,” Mr Anwar reiterated. “We have to take into consideration the concerns, sensitivities and the need to look forward and forge that strong bonds between the two nations.”
He added that the current generation of leaders must make “additional effort” in improving bilateral relations.
“The younger generation do not have the same exposure, experience and relationship as the first or second generations,” said Mr Anwar.
“You have to understand that and therefore, you need to take additional effort.”
He also paid tribute to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who met Dr Mahathir, as well as Mr Anwar and his wife, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on May 19, 10 days after the Pakatan Harapan coalition won in Malaysia’s historic 14th general election.
“He was very very cordial, and it was a good gesture for him to be among the first to visit us after the election. These signals are important because it goes beyond diplomatic encounters and business deals,” Mr Anwar said.
ANWAR TO VISIT SINGAPORE AFTER BECOMING PM
Mr Anwar, who is in Singapore for the first time since he was released from prison in May, added that he will visit the city-state when he becomes prime minister. He stressed, however, that he must first win the by-election for the parliamentary seat of Port Dickson.
It was announced on Wednesday that Anwar will be contesting in the by-election after PKR candidate Danyal Balagopal Abdullah stepped down, paving the way for Mr Anwar to return to the Malaysian parliament.
Responding to a question on the upcoming by-election, Mr Anwar said: “I don’t take things for granted. I have been in politics for a long time.
"I will go down (there) to appeal to the voters, and (the demographics) is very mixed ... it's about 50 per cent Malays, 30 per cent Chinese and almost 20 per cent Indians.
"So it's really a microcosm of Malaysian society, and I want to make sure, God willing, that I get a majority of the Malay votes, the majority of Indian votes and the majority of Chinese.”
Recognising that the task is arduous and that campaigning will be gruelling, Mr Anwar added that he is hopeful that he will win and enter parliament.
“When I assume the premiership, I will make sure that one of the first countries I visit will be Singapore,” he added, to applause from the hall.