PM Lee positive about proposal to link up S'pore, JB urban rails

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 17 April 2008 1800 hrs


SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has responded positively to a suggestion by Johor's Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman to link up the urban rails of Singapore and Johor Bahru.

The issue was discussed when visiting Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim called on Mr Lee at the Istana on Thursday morning, said Foreign Minister George Yeo at a joint news conference with his Malaysian counterpart later in the day.

The proposal will now be discussed by a joint ministerial committee which is looking into the Iskandar Malaysia project. This committee was set up after PM Lee and his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Abdullah Badawi, had their first retreat in Langkawi last year.

Singapore is the first stop in a series of introductory visits by the new Malaysian foreign minister, and this signals the special relationship between the two neighbours.

Dr Rais said: "Between Malaysia and Singapore, there is only a one-way street and that is to forge ahead together for a future within ASEAN and to share the good fortunes of what the world will offer.

"No one will come to us and help us except ourselves. Therefore, the commonality between the two nations should be at the top of priority lists and the differences whatever they are should be left to be scored later."

Among the issues discussed between the Singapore and Malaysian foreign ministers is how to further integrate the economies of both countries and to enhance connectivity across the causeway.

The IDR is one of the cooperation projects which both foreign ministers hope would enhance bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia. The project's joint ministerial committee is already in place to look into various proposals.

Mr Yeo said: "Last year, the two prime ministers had their retreat in Langkawi which was very successful, and we are hoping that Singapore can host the next retreat sometime in the near future."

He added that the International Court of Justice is likely to release its ruling on the disputed island of Pedra Branca next month, and both foreign ministers have agreed that they would congratulate whichever country that emerges victorious.

"Whatever the decision, we would accept it and it will not affect bilateral relations. The lighthouse would continue to provide valuable facilities to all navigators, so nothing should change. This is the common position we take," said Mr Yeo.

Dr Rais said: "What is committed through the rule of law, through international arrangement, we must respect. If we do not do that, then being neighbourly is not substantive enough."

On the current political situation in Malaysia, Dr Rais stressed that the question of leadership change is not on the agenda at all.

He said: "These are what we call political airings or political elements in the thoughts of certain sectors in the party as well as outside the party... more so in the opposition.

"The litmus test would be at the (UMNO) general assembly, which would be held in December, and I am most confident that Datuk Seri Abdullah will be the winning element for us all and the Barisan (Nasional) will continue to be a strong and prospective true government for Malaysia."

Dr Rais is also confident that Malaysia's relationship with Singapore will continue to improve going forward.

On Thursday afternoon, the Malaysian foreign minister also called on Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Istana and had a friendly exchange of views on recent developments in Malaysia and the state of bilateral relations.

The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of having good neighbourly relations between the two countries.


- CNA/so