PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference at the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 16 January 2018

Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Malaysian PM Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak at the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on 16 January 2018.


Prime Minister Najib, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very happy to have hosted the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat this morning with Prime Minister Najib. We had very good discussions. Our bilateral relations are in very good shape. Both sides have been able to work well together. We have many concrete projects which our peoples will be benefitting from; and there is much more we can do together.

One example that has borne fruit is Marina One and DUO, which the Prime Minister and I launched yesterday evening. We embarked on these projects about five years ago when we resolved the 1990 Points of Agreement on Malayan Railway Land in Singapore. Today, Marina One and DUO are prominent landmarks in downtown Singapore, with a combined gross development value of S$11 billion.

It is one bright example of what we can do together. There are other examples of infrastructure projects which can improve connectivity and bring our peoples and businesses closer. The High Speed Rail has made good progress since we signed the Bilateral Agreement in 2016. Last month, we called the joint tender for the Assets Company. There is strong international interest and we will have many good offers to choose from. Procurement will be done in fair, open, and transparent manner.

We have also just signed the Bilateral Agreement for the RTS Link. It is an important long-term cross-border project. When completed in 2024, it will benefit thousands of daily commuters and reduce Causeway congestion. I would like to thank Ministers Khaw Boon Wan, on my side, and Minister Rahman Dahlan, on the other side, and their respective teams for their hard work and close cooperation. 

The RTS Link will replace the KTMB link to Woodlands when it becomes operational, but meanwhile, we will increase the frequency of the shuttle service by KTMB – the train shuttle service. The enhanced connectivity will also boost economic cooperation in Iskandar Malaysia (IM). Singapore is the second largest foreign investor in Iskandar Malaysia and Johor. The Temasek and Khazanah joint venture developments in Iskandar Malaysia, Afiniti and Avira, are progressing well and we are working closely together through the Joint Ministerial Committee for IM to foster a conducive business environment and enhance vocational and technical education training in skills that investors need.

I also discussed water with Prime Minister Najib. Our Ministers and officials are working closely to ensure sufficient water supply from Johor River for Malaysia and Singapore. As Iskandar Malaysia and Johor grow, water demand in Johor will increase. Although Linggiu Reservoir has gradually filled up over the last year, with good rainfall and with a barrage at Kota Tinggi, we do not know when the next prolonged dry spell will hit. We must implement further schemes to increase the yield of the River and the resilience of Linggiu Reservoir. The two sides will do a joint hydrometric modelling study of Johor River to examine measures to conserve Linggiu Reservoir stock.

Finally, we renewed our MOU on Educational Cooperation, which has been in place for 10 years and we are also working on a Triennial Cultural Showcase for the next Retreat which will be in Malaysia at the end of this year, centred on theme of “Youth”. These initiatives will help build ties between our young and our future generations.

We are doing a lot together, in infrastructure, in education and culture. There is also other security cooperation, cooperation in counter-terrorism, diplomatic cooperation; and we are constantly looking for new areas to better the lives of our peoples. It is a sign of our confidence in each other’s future and our commitment to good relations with one another.

I thank the Prime Minister for visiting us and look forward to visiting Malaysia for the next Retreat, after probably their general elections.

Q&A session


Today Online: Hi, this is Kenneth with TODAY. My question has two parts. Could both Prime Ministers elaborate a bit more on this significance of this RTS to both sides given that the bilateral agreement was signed today? And the second part of my question is, in the context of the upcoming Malaysian Elections, given that the HSR and the RTS are long-term projects expanding several terms of government, how will the two governments ensure that the projects will be unaffected by political and other changes? Thank you.

PM Lee Hsien Loong: Well, the RTS will enhance our connectivity with Malaysia, particularly with Johor. It will replace the KTM link which is now running on the Causeway. It’s a bridge which will come underground in Singapore and then connect to the Republic’s station on the Thomson Line, so the capacity will relieve the capacity on the Causeway and on the CIQ at the Causeway and will provide a convenient means for Johorians to come to Singapore to work or to play and Singaporeans to go to Johor to study, to work, to shop. It is an ambitious project, it is quite complicated because it has to start above ground, cross the water, go underground, and then there is a CIQ underground that must connect, then the people can come out and go onto the Singapore MRT trains. But we hope we will get it up by 2024, and I do not see any reason why that should not be possible. Like all projects which involve more than one country and expand more than one term of government, it requires long-term commitment. The commitment is formalised and the agreement which we signed between the two governments today, is a binding agreement, and whoever is the government on either side, well this is an agreement which they inherit and which they are party to. If the subsequent government has other ideas, well, that would have to be dealt with and the agreement will deal with these contingencies. But I have no doubt on Singapore’s side, we have every intention of implementing what we signed and committed to today.

PM Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak: Well, on the RTS, I fully agree with what Prime Minister Hsien Loong mentioned. It will provide the seamless connectivity and the volume that is required. The volume is high about 10,000 per hour, which is the level that is required. In the future, it will replace KTM. It is a complex project but it is very doable and the technical challenges can be overcome. We are sanguine and optimistic that it will change the nature of connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. On the second question, we cannot determine what the electorate will decide but we can offer our agenda for the people to decide. We live in a democracy and the people will decide. But we believe that they will decide on an agenda that is very meaningful and productive. We believe in good relations with our neighbours, with Singapore, and we are proven that we can bring tangible benefits to the people if we work closely together. That is the position of our government. The other side may have other ideas. We certainly do not want to return to the era of confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric in our two countries. It was an era that we want to forget. We certainly do not want to come back to that era. That is why we believe that the position of the current government is the position that will bring mutual benefit to both Singapore and Malaysia. We stand by our policy, by our agenda, and by our ability to deliver real and tangible benefit to both the peoples of Malaysia and Singapore.

Bernama: Hi Dato’ Sri. Apa khabar Mr Lee. I am Massita from Bernama Malaysia. Marina One and DUO have completed. Could we expect more future developments for M+S?

PM Lee: We have two projects in Iskandar Malaysia – Afiniti and Avira. They are progressing well. I think we complete the projects and then we will look and see what further opportunities will arise. I hope there will be more opportunities.

PM Najib: Ya, I hope so too.

The Straits Times: Prime Ministers. Royston from the Straits Times. What is the outlook for bilateral relations in the coming year given that it will be one where we might expect to see interesting domestic developments on both sides?

PM Lee: What domestic developments do you have in mind in Singapore?

ST: Cabinet reshuffle?

PM Lee: I do not think the cabinet reshuffle in Singapore will affect our bilateral relations with Malaysia. I look forward to our relations being stable and the Malaysian side taking a similar approach.

PM Najib: I do not expect elections to change the nature of relations between our two countries as well.

PM Lee: Because you have a confidence in the result.

(Both PM Lee and PM Najib laugh)


Sin Chew Daily: Hi Prime Ministers, I am Kai Ru from Sin Chew Daily News. As we know that the Japanese government plans to back the bid for the HSR project for both financial and technical. My question is what are the criteria for both governments to choose which country to win the bid for the HSR? Thank you.

PM Lee: I do not have the specifications sheet with me, but I am sure we will work out the systematic list of items. What has to be evaluated, how they have to be weighted, what is the veto item, what is plus or minus the desirable item. In the end you will have a systematic process to come to a recommendation and to a decision. It is not unusual in a complex project to have to make evaluations on bids on many dimensions. It is not just the price but the reliability the conditions, the financing, the assurance that you have the track record the confidence in the company elsewhere. There is a process. In the end there is a judgement involved, which we will do collectively. But if the process is transparent and open, people can have confidence this was a judgement that was made honestly and in good faith and without any prejudice to any party and without intending to favour or to hurt any side. When you have a competition, you must have a winner and a non-winner. It is like when you have an election, you must have a winner and a non-winner. It must be settled in such a way that the winner wins fairly and the person who did not win must be able to accept even if he is not happy that it was done properly and this was just the way chips fell. That is what we are striving to do.

PM Najib: Thank you, and I fully agree with what Prime Minister Hsien Loong has said. It will be a very comprehensive assessment, multidimensional assessment. It will mean not just a matter of technical and cost, but it will also take into account the longevity of the project, in other words, life-cycle cost, maintenance and especially local content. It is important to maximise local content so that the people will see that the High-Speed Rail will really bring real benefit, tangible benefit even during the construction period.