SINGAPORE’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday launched criticisms of its larger neighbouring countries Malaysia and Indonesia.
Speaking about Singapore’s foreign relations at the People’s Action Party (PAP) Convention, Lee said that there would be “always ups and downs” in bilateral relationships and that the country should “work towards relations that benefit both sides.”
Off the back of the Asean Summit in Manila, Philippines, last week, Lee said “where relations are going well, we should not take them for granted. More importantly, when relations are down, we must not get flustered or cower.”
As an example of a possible point of friction with its neighbours, the PM pointed to the historically disputed island of Pedra Branca on the easternmost point of Singapore.
“We thought the issue was permanently settled long ago because in 2008 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made a ruling, final, that awarded Pedra Blanca to Singapore. But almost a decade later, the Malaysians have gone to the ICJ again and are asking the court to reinterpret and to revise the judgment,” Lee said.
“I’m not sure what Malaysia’s motive is but their General Election is coming which may have something to do with it.”
Lee said that although Singapore’s relations with Indonesia were good, “politicians have been talking about ‘taking back their airspace from Singapore’. Actually, this is not about Indonesia’s airspace.”
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“Unfortunately, it has been politicised and made into an issue of sovereignty and national pride,” he said. “When sovereignty and national pride are engaged, unfortunately that makes the problem much harder to solve.”
Singapore generally enjoys good relations with its Asean neighbours and further afield.
Its passport was recently reported to be the most powerful globally, a reflection of the city-state’s positive relations worldwide.
“No foreign country should ever influence our domestic debate and politics, or divide and weaken us, either openly or covertly,” Lee said.