Transcript of the speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch hosted in Honour of Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad on 12 November 2018.
Your Excellency Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah
Ladies and gentlemen
A very warm welcome to Dr Mahathir, Dr Siti Hasmah, and all of the Malaysian delegation.
This is Dr Mahathir’s first official visit to Singapore since he became the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Usually we would call such a visit an “introductory visit”. But Dr Mahathir needs no introduction. He is very familiar with Singapore. He made his first official visit here as Prime Minister in December 1981 and he has since visited Singapore many times, working with us on projects that have lasting benefits for both Malaysia and Singapore. For example, the Linggiu Dam in Johor and the Second Link at Tuas.
I welcome the opportunity today to reaffirm the close friendship between our countries and also to continue our discussion when I called upon Dr Mahathir in Putrajaya in May, soon after the elections in Malaysia. We had a good meeting today. We discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation. Malaysia is Singapore’s closest neighbour and vice versa. We are bound by geography and history. Our economies are extensively intertwined, because we are each other’s second-largest trading partners and Singapore is Malaysia’s second-largest foreign investor.
Our relationship is further strengthened by bonds of kinship, friendship and memories. We all have friends and relatives who live, study or work across the Causeway, and we feel at home when we visit each other. Some of my Cabinet members were born and raised in Malaysia. Several Malaysian Ministers were born in Singapore, grew up or studied here. I think including, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali. And when we are overseas, we can pick each other out by how similarly we speak, dress and behave. The connection is instant.
Many of our best memories were also made in each other’s country. My first family trips with my parents were to Cameron Highlands, as a very young boy. We would drive up to Kuala Lumpur, taking most of a day, and break journey overnight, and stay at the Railway Station Hotel, because I was interested in trains. Then the next morning, we would drive from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands, stopping along the way at the town of Bidor in Perak for some delicious wonton noodles, made with fresh water prawns caught in the mining ponds. Nowadays with the North-South Highway, the journey is much faster but perhaps not quite as adventurous or scenic, or delicious.
Dr Mahathir and Dr Siti Hasmah met in Singapore. They studied at the King Edward VII College of Medicine, which is now part of the National University of Singapore (NUS). It is where they started their courtship, which led to a long and happy marriage, now for more than 60 years. When we met in May 2018, Dr Mahathir spoke fondly about his time in the college and his old classmates whom he kept in touch with for many years, but had not seen for a while. So I am happy that NUS will confer an Honorary Doctorate of Laws on Dr Mahathir tomorrow, and many of his old friends will be at the ceremony.
Singapore and Malaysia will always have a unique place for each other in our hearts. And because of our proximity and interdependence, we will always have an interest in each other’s development and success. I look forward to working with Dr Mahathir and his Government to strengthen this special bond between Singapore and Malaysia. And to create even more lasting memories and benefits for our peoples and our future.
Prime Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast to: the good health and success of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Dr Siti Hasmah and the enduring and special ties between Singapore and Malaysia. Cheers.
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