Monday, 9 February 2015

Bilateral problems not all Singapore's fault: Abdullah Badawi

The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2015

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia cannot blame Singapore entirely for the bilateral problems the two nations faced, says former prime minister Abdullah Badawi.

He said that "we must also look at ourselves in the mirror" from time to time.

"In seeking cooperation, both Malaysia and Singapore must recognise that we cannot expect to change each other's policies or the way we conduct our international relations.

"There will inevitably be differences between us," Tun Abdullah said on Wednesday at the launch of the book Malaysia-Singapore: Fifty Years Of Contentions 1965-2015 by the Foreign Ministry's former secretary-general Kadir Mohamad.

The 364-page book, which retails at RM100 (S$38), has nine chapters on events and issues including water, the dispute over sovereign ownership of Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca) and the saga of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's proposal for a bridge to replace the Causeway.

It also looks extensively at Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who, according to the author, dictated the form and substance of relations with Malaysia over the past 50 years.

"I wanted to tell and explain that the major issues that caused the ups and downs of the relations between Malaysia and Singapore, 1965-2015, originated from the behaviour of Singapore as devised by Lee," Tan Sri Kadir said earlier.

"I needed to identify the person responsible, more than anyone else, for the way things were. There was no better way of relating this than to detail the role of Lee."

Mr Kadir said Mr Lee "had personal scores to settle with Malaysian leaders", and concluded that Malaysia-Singapore relations will be better now that the elder statesman is "no longer calling the shots in Singapore".

Mr Abdullah, however, acknowledged that Malaysia and Singapore are "not normal neighbours" because they were a "united polity that came apart".

"When I was prime minister, I tried to remove some baggage," he said. "History will be the judge of what I tried to do."


Decisions on KL-Singapore ties made collectively

WITHOUT the benefit of knowing how decisions are made at the highest level in Singapore, veteran Malaysian diplomat Kadir Mohamad has taken liberties to make unwarranted statements, such as the one alleging that Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew "dictated the form and substance of relations with Malaysia over the past 50 years" ("Bilateral problems not all Singapore's fault"; last Friday).

Having been involved in the management of bilateral relations during the six years I was the High Commissioner of Singapore to Malaysia (1997-2002), I can firmly say that all decisions pertaining to this relationship were collective decisions, taken after wide consultations.

Of course, given his long familiarity with the issues involved, Mr Lee's views were given due weightage. Once a decision was taken, the principle of collective responsibility prevailed.

Tan Sri Kadir also said that Mr Lee "had personal scores to settle with Malaysian leaders".

Again, he is ignorant of or not privy to the extra mile that Mr Lee took to build a relationship based on good neighbourliness and mutual benefit.

As former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi has graciously pointed out, it takes two to tango.

It was only after Tun Abdullah's assumption of office that an acrimonious chapter in the bilateral relationship was brought to a close.

K. Kesavapany
High Commissioner of Singapore to Malaysia (1997 to 2002)
ST Forum, 9 Feb 2015

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