There is a "new momentum" in Singapore-Malaysia relations, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday, as he described ties between the two countries as deep, resilient and long-standing.
And though the road ahead will not always run smooth, he is confident the two neighbours can overcome issues that may crop up, given the current positive mindset. Indeed, the excellent state of bilateral relations that was heard on both sides since the start of Dr Tan's three-day state visit to Malaysia, was emphasised again in his wrap-up interview yesterday after a day trip to Malacca.
He traced the invigorated ties to the resolution of the Points of Agreement in 2010, after two decades of dispute over the original agreement on railway land use. "Resolving that very difficult issue...has given rise to a lot of new initiatives and it is a key catalyst in bringing our mutual relations forward," he said.
Dr Tan attributes it to the strong working relationship between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak, both of whom set the tone for a "new positive and forward-looking mindset", he said.
"Good relations have enabled both sides to make things happen," he said, adding that PM Najib made the same point when they met on Wednesday. Their collaborations include development projects by Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings in Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia as well as a planned high-speed rail between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and a rapid transit system link with Johor.
Dr Tan, however, cautioned that the good ties cannot be taken for granted."Problems, issues will arise from time to time. You must expect this." But the positive approach and close personal ties at all levels will help overcome the challenges. "In the end, the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia is a very deep, resilient and long standing one.
It has weathered many ups and downs over the last 50 years," he said. One major challenge he foresees is in implementing the joint initiatives, like the developments in Iskandar and Singapore and high-speed rail, as many details need to be worked out through mutual negotiation.
But what is important, said Dr Tan, is that both sides have set up a format to resolve these issues.
One example is the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia, which will meet next month to discuss t