‘Good for younger leaders to meet’

THE TREND of younger Malaysian and Singaporean leaders meeting each other is good for relations between the two countries and should be encouraged, the visiting Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, Datuk Dr Ibrahim Saad, said yesterday.

Describing his relationship with Singapore leaders as “comfortable”, he stressed that without political communication between neighbouring countries, “nothing else will go”.

He said: “If you pick up the phone and call up your colleague on the other side, that helps a lot in terms of understanding. This is the kind of relationship we should maintain.”

He spoke to reporters in his suite at the Marina Mandarin hotel. Datuk Dr Ibrahim is here on a week-long visit as the first recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship.

The fellowship, in honour of the Senior Minister’s contributions to the country, brings outstanding individuals to Singapore.

Datuk Dr Ibrahim said that the psyche of the younger generation of Singapore and Malaysian leaders differs from that of their predecessors.

“The current generation on both sides have never experienced Singapore being part of Malaysia,” he pointed out. “To us, it is just history. We were never part of it. There is no emotional or psychological attachment. There are no hang-ups”.

Both countries, he added, should regard each other as friends and equals.

Datuk Dr Ibrahim, 47, is also the State Executive member in charge of land development and industrial planning and chairman of Penang Regional Development Authority.

Yesterday, he called on the Acting Minister for National Development, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, and held discussions with top officials of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Housing and Development Board. He also visited Bishan New Town.

He said he had visited Singapore many times, but this trip offered a very different perspective from being a tourist.

“You see the philosophy and rationale behind policies. It gives you a different perspective of what is happening here,” he commented.

“They are models that are tested. Models that have shown success. They are real things you can study.”

He said the two countries might differ in size, but the philosophy behind policies could always be the same. Provision of housing, for example, was a philosophy they shared.

A member of the Umno Supreme Council since 1990, Datuk Dr Ibrahim said he was honoured to receive the fellowship. “The name Lee Kuan Yew has been associated with good leadership and development. I am very happy to be given an award named after him,” he said.

Datuk Dr Ibrahim, who arrived on Sunday, is due to call on the ministers for Trade and Industry and for Education. He will also meet officials of the Economic Development Board, Institute of South-east Asian Studies, Institute of Policy Studies, People’s Association, Temasek Holdings and various tertiary institutions.

Set up in 1991, the Lee Kuan Yew Fellowship is chaired by Mr Lee Hee Seng, who is also the chairman of the Public Service Commission, with a board of directors comprising the private and public sectors.

The fellowship’s recipients are people with a proven track record or with the potential to contribute to the development of their countries and help promote international understanding and goodwill.

Funds for the fellowship are donated by private companies.

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