PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference at the 7th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 13 December 2016

Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Malaysian PM Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak at the 7th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on 13 December 2016 in Putrajaya.


Thank you Prime Minister Najib.

Leaders Retreat Deliverables

I am very grateful to Prime Minister Najib not just for his very generous hospitality, but also for being able to accommodate me and my delegation and welcome us here today on what must be a very busy day for him because it is a day on which you are installing a new yang di-Pertuan Agong. I congratulated him on a new Agong and I look forward to working with Malaysia and to receiving a visit from the new yang di-pertuan Agong in due course.

It has been a very fruitful retreat for us. We signed the agreement on the High Speed Rail, a bilateral agreement. We have endorsed the technical arrangements for the Singapore-Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link. We also agreed on a broader range of cooperation between our two countries, including a new triennial cultural showcase, which we would embark upon between Singapore and Malaysia.

High Speed Rail

First of all, on the High Speed Rail, very glad to witness the signing of the formal agreement today. We had an MOU back in July. Since then, our officials have worked hard to pin down the details and the legal text, and we are ready to sign, and we signed it today. It is a marquee project, a significant milestone in our relationship. As Prime Minister Najib says, it will transform the way we interact, socialise, do business, and for the better, and give both sides a big stake in keeping the relationship stable and warm.

I would like to thank particularly the Ministers, Khaw Boon Wan on my side, Dato Rahman Dahlan on the Malaysian side, and before that his predecessor, who was Dato Wahid (Abdul Wahid bin Omar) for the very hard work in the negotiations and for lending the agreement. Now we have to implement the agreement. It is a long way to go yet because it is a complex project and we are making long-term commitments. But there is a strong political will on both sides to ensure the project is done right and is a success. I look forward to taking my first train ride up to Putrajaya in ten years’ time.

Rapid Transit System Link

I am also happy that we have made important decisions on the RTS Link, which will further enhance our connectivity and benefit thousands of people who commute between Singapore and Johor daily. It will connect Johor Bahru to Singapore, to our Thomson-East Coast MRT Line, and use same systems as the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line, so that visitors can clear immigration in Johor Bahru, get on to the RTS, come to Singapore, and transfer to the MRT seamlessly, and vice versa. We have settled on a high bridge crossing. This was a major point, how are we going to cross the Straits of Johor, high bridge, low bridge, tunnel, and after extensive discussions we have agreed that the high bridge is the best solution. That clears the way for us to work towards a bilateral agreement, which I hope we can sign by the end of next year.

Cultural Triennial Showcase

All these projects show our commitment to work together and to strengthen our links. When they come to fruition, there will be more exchanges between our people and deeper ties between the two countries. So that is one of the reasons why we agreed to hold a Triennial Cultural Showcase in conjunction with future Leaders’ Retreats. Building on the success of Titian Budaya last year, this will further our cultural cooperation, which is very important because our relationship must be more than just economics and transactions. Ultimately, it is about friendship. Friendship between the people; friendship and trust between the leaders.Arts and culture play an important role here.

Iskandar Malaysia (IM)

We also discussed other areas of bilateral cooperation. Iskandar (Malaysia), which now celebrates its 10th anniversary. I congratulated the Prime Minister on this milestone. It is next door to Singapore, if Iskandar prospers, so does Singapore. I am very glad that Iskandar has attracted substantial amounts of investments since its launch. Singapore is second largest foreign investor in IM and also in Johor.We continue to work closely together in the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM).

Our joint venture projects between Temasek and Khazanah are progressing well. In Iskandar, there is the Afiniti and the Avira wellness projects. In Singapore, we have the M+S projects – there is the Marina One. I saw it while going to the Airport today. There is the DUO, which is at Rochor, which is also coming up.They show visibly that this is a win-win partnership, which is progressing.


On water, we have a clear statement of where we stand. It is an important issue for both countries. We are happy that we have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River, as provided for in the 1962 water agreement, and to take necessary measures in order to make this happen. I am very happy that the Johor River Barrage is now in its final stages of completion. It is already making a difference and helping to improve the yield of the river. Our agencies are working closely together. That means on our side, PUB (Public Utilities Board), on the Johor side, BAKAJ, and on the federal level, KeTTA. I appreciate very much that Malaysia will be taking appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River. So these are amongst the things which we have discussed together. There are others as well. We also looked at the state of the world, the uncertainties and the anxieties which are currently prevalent internationally – change of government in America, Brexit in Britain, major changes in our part of the world too, and tensions and pre-occupations in various countries in the region. We agreed that in such a circumstance, all the more our bilateral relationship must be strong and we should work together within ASEAN to strengthen ASEAN cohesion, to deal with the issues, so that we can share each other’s burdens, and prosper together.

Thank you very much.              


Click here to view the Joint Statement by PM Najib Razak and PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat.