KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today pledged to resolve standing disputes with Malaysia “calmly and constructively” in a new year celebration message marked by a firm call for mutual respect.
Lee said ties between the two nations had been rocked by a territorial wrangle and Putrajaya’s plan to revise the price of water supply to the Island republic, but he remains hopeful that both countries maintain a stable and good working relation.
This, he added, can be achieved if the two governments share a sense of “equality” and commitment to international law.
“We will deal with all these matters calmly and constructively,” Lee, the son of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, said.
“Singapore and Malaysia must manage specific problems, however difficult, while preserving the overall relationship. The way to do so is through equality and mutual respect, upholding international commitments and the rule of law.”
Malaysia and Singapore are locked in a fresh dispute over maritime borders after the latter claimed the Johor Port limit expansion violated its waters. Putrajaya, on the other hand, insisted the move is legitimate.
Calling it “provocative intrusions into our territorial waters and on airspace”, Lee said the border dispute, alongside the souring negotiations over Putrajaya’s plan to revise the price of Johor water, may be hard to resolve.
“Singapore’s stand is quite clear,” he said.
Yet the Singaporean prime minister noted that the two nations have survived rough patches in the past.
Citing the republic’s agreement to defer the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project, Lee said his government had played its part as a good neighbour.
“Singapore worked with them to accommodate their needs,” he said.
Singapore has used the maritime border dispute as a rallying call for unity, a message Lee reiterated as he addressed the country on New Year ’s Eve.
“We will stand our ground calmly but firmly,” he said.
“I am confident that this time too Singaporeans will work closely together to keep relations with Malaysia stable.
“A new generation will learn how to collectively protect our vital interests while living in peace and friendship with our neighbours.”