No bilateral issues should be left unresolved, says Anwar on first visit to Singapore as Malaysia PM
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has invited Mr Anwar Ibrahim to visit Singapore again in the second half of the year for the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat.
SINGAPORE: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made his first official visit to Singapore on Monday (Jan 30), marking the occasion with the signing of several bilateral cooperation agreements and signalling his intention to work through “contentious outstanding issues” between the two countries.
At a toast during an official lunch after witnessing the signing of the bilateral agreements on digital and green economies as well as cybersecurity, Mr Anwar said that he had meaningful discussions with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“The discussions were meaningful, not normal diplomatic cliches. There were of course more contentious outstanding issues. And I'm glad to say that both of us feel that bilateral relations must be enhanced,” said Mr Anwar.
He added: “No issues should be left unresolved, we should try and do our utmost to enhance this relation(ship) and work together for the benefit of both countries.”
Mr Anwar said that although his administration is still very new, the Malaysian Cabinet not only wants to “continue relations” with Singapore but to do “so much more for the benefit of our people”.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made his first official visit to Singapore on Monday (Jan 30), marking the occasion with the signing of several bilateral cooperation agreements and signalling his intention to work through “contentious outstanding issues” between the two countries. Tan Si Hui reports.
“We want both Singaporeans and Malaysians to understand and appreciate the fact that these are two great countries and two great neighbours that could do so much more for the benefit of our people.
“Therefore it’s up to our colleagues to proceed, to move forward, not only in terms of trade, investments, security and resolving all these issues ... (such as) FIR (Flight Information Region), RTS (Rapid Transit System), Causeway (congestion) ... which must be done for the benefit of our people,” said the Malaysian leader without further elaboration.
FIR refers to demarcations that divide up the global airspace that do not necessarily follow territorial boundaries. RTS refers to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link that aims to connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru city to Woodlands in Singapore. The latter is on track to be operational by end-2026.
In his speech at the lunch, Mr Anwar said that he was touched when Mr Lee had made a reference to Malaysian workers who come to Singapore for work.
“I was very touched when he made reference to the fact that people have to queue for hours to come to work (in Singapore), waking up at four in the morning. Of course, it is in our common desire to ensure that facilities are provided on both sides of the border to facilitate entry,” said Mr Anwar.
He added that the issue of food security is also one area that both countries could cooperate on.
“This area (food security) that I think we would solicit support for Singapore to use Malaysia as the heartland to produce for the benefit of both countries,” said Mr Anwar.
He also stressed that President Halimah Yacob’s upcoming state visit to Malaysia in the future is a “clear signal that bilateral relations are vibrant”.
On his part, Mr Lee said that the Singapore-Malaysia partnership has stood, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During that time, ministers and officials from both countries kept in close contact to exchange notes, support one another and to coordinate plans, he recounted.
“Even as supply chains all across the world were disrupted, people and goods continued to flow safely and smoothly between Malaysia and Singapore,” said Mr Lee.
He added that now that the borders between both countries are fully reopened, people are able to visit freely and businesses can operate with greater predictability.
Mr Lee noted that travel between Singapore and Malaysia “will be even easier” once the RTS Link is completed in 2026.
Mr Lee added that the two leaders had a “fruitful discussion” on how both countries can make progress on outstanding bilateral issues.
“As close friends and neighbours, the destinies of Singapore and Malaysia are intertwined. When we work constructively together, we produce win-win outcomes with tangible benefits for our peoples and businesses. I am confident that with Prime Minister Anwar’s support, Singapore-Malaysia relations can reach greater heights,” said Mr Lee.
LEADERS REAFFIRMED “IMMUTABLE FRIENDSHIP” BETWEEN BOTH SIDES: MFA
In a statement issued on Monday, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that the meeting between Mr Lee and Mr Anwar “reaffirmed the longstanding and immutable friendship” between the two countries.
“They welcomed the reopening of borders and increasing connectivity between the two countries. They agreed on the importance of working together to deepen ties in mutually beneficial areas, as well as address bilateral issues in a constructive manner.
“Prime Minister Lee invited Prime Minister Anwar to visit Singapore again for the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in the second half of 2023,” said MFA.
The agreements signed on Monday include a framework of cooperation in digital economy which covers areas such as trade facilitation, cross-border data flows and electronic payments.
The framework on green economy cooperation will look into the development of new and renewable energy-related technology standards and explore collaboration on electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles standards, among others.
Lastly, a memorandum of understanding was also inked to enable Singapore and Malaysia to cooperate on issues such as personal data protection as well as cybersecurity.
During his visit to Singapore, Mr Anwar was accompanied by his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as well as a number of federal ministers as well as Johor’s chief minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi.
The prime minister and his wife also had an orchid hybrid named in their honour during the visit before Mr Anwar called on President Halimah and met with Mr Lee. He will also engage the Malaysian community in Singapore during his one-day visit.