SINGAPORE: Singapore has worked hard to build its ties with Malaysia and Indonesia, but these are “sensitive, complex relationships,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 21).
In his National Day Rally speech, Mr Lee said there will be differences from time to time, because of their deep-seated attitudes towards Singapore.
Speaking about Indonesia, Mr Lee said that an Indonesian minister “declared that he was not afraid of Singapore because it is just a small country.”
“It’s an abang (big brother) attitude towards us. It has not changed since we became independent,” he said.
“But we must not let these difficulties affect our broader bilateral cooperation,” the Prime Minister added, noting that on the whole, Singapore’s relations with both Malaysia and Indonesia are good.
He said he had settled the Points of Agreement (POA) on Railway Land with Malaysian PM Najib Razak. The Development Charge issue in the POA, however, saw both countries disagree over whether development charges should be paid for three parcels of land in Keppel, Kranji and Woodlands. It was submitted for arbitration in 2012 to an international tribunal.
In this regard, Mr Lee said that the ruling went against Singapore. “But webothaccepted it and moved on,” said Mr Lee. “Wedidn'tlet it affect our relationship with Malaysia, or my personal ties with PM Najib.”
He also brought up his visit to Putrajaya last month to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the High Speed Rail between Singapore and Malaysia. “PM Najib hosted us to lunch. The durian was good, but the High Speed Rail will be better,” he said.
Singapore also wants to work with Indonesia to tackle trans-boundary haze, to deal with the companies that are causing it, said Mr Lee.
He said he meets Indonesian President Joko Widodo regularly, and added that Mr Widodo told him that he is committed to solving the haze problem.
“We have also been discussing enhancing economic cooperation, to encourage Singapore companies to invest more in Indonesia,” said Mr Lee. This includes to refresh Singapore’s longstanding cooperation in Bintan, Batam and Karimun, he added.
The Prime Minister also said that he will be having a leaders’ retreat with the Indonesian President in Semarang on Thursday (Aug 25), adding that Semarang had been chosen because of SembCorp’s joint venture to build an industrial park there.
Both leaders will be opening the Kendal Industrial Park, which Mr Lee described in his speech as “the first major industrial investment by a Singapore company outside Batam.”