Remarks by President Halimah Yacob at Breakfast Reception for Singaporeans in Kuala Lumpur

Good morning everyone. I am delighted to see all of you this morning, considering that today is a working day. As High Commissioner had said earlier in his speech, this is my first Working Visit to Kuala Lumpur as President. However, it is not my first visit to Malaysia.  I was here in December last year in my personal capacity. A young Malaysian took a photo of me at Pasar Masjid India and posted on his Facebook and it went viral. I did not know until a friend told me!

2          I am visiting Malaysia on this trip as the Chancellor of National University of Singapore for the University of Malaya-National University of Singapore (UM-NUS) Inter-University Tunku Chancellor Golf Tournament. The Games is an expression of the strong relationship between senior leaders of both universities, and has been hosted alternately by NUS and UM.  This year, it is held in Kuala Lumpur. The annual tournament has gone on for 50 years!

3          The UM-NUS Games is a testament of the close relationship between Singapore and Malaysia. The two countries are geographically close neighbours, and share similar cultures. Many Singaporeans have families staying and working in Malaysia. Yesterday Mr Mohamed’s family visited him at our hotel.  Similarly, many Malaysians have families in Singapore.  In a way, the UM-NUS Games is a reflection of the close relationship the two countries share.

4          On this trip, I also took the opportunity to meet with His Majesty Sultan Muhammad V, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XV yesterday. We reaffirmed the strong relations between Singapore and Malaysia.  On a lighter note, he told me that former President Benjamin Sheares had made a trip to Kelantan to deliver him as a baby.  Dr Sheares was a good friend of his grandfather. This was how close the peoples of Singapore and Malaysia have been.  The Agong himself visits Singapore regularly. In fact, he told me he has visited many of our mosques on those trips, and during the visits he was always keen to check on the state of cleanliness of the mosques, and whether his shoes would be stolen. He said that he has so far not found an unclean mosque or had his shoes stolen!

5          Apart from the close people to people relationship, our two countries also share close relationship at the Government level. Prime Minister and DPM Teo Chee Hean visited Malaysia soon after the Malaysia General Elections. We also welcomed many Ministers who visited Malaysia.  For example, during the recent FI race, I was happy to meet Dato’ Sri Azmin Ali, Minister of Economic Affairs and Dato’ Seri Mukhriz bin Tun Mahathir, Kedah Chief Minister. I also recently met the Malaysia Foreign Minister, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, during his official visit to Singapore.  At an alumni event in Tanjong Katong Girls’ School (TKGS), I was happy to meet Zuraida Kamaruddin, Minister for Housing and Local Government.  Both Zuraida and I are alumni of TKGS – she went there for her secondary education, while I did my pre-university in the school.

6          Of course the two countries will have some issues from time to time, just like any other countries. But they should be taken in the spirit of trust and respect, and we will find solutions to them. Singapore and Malaysia share close trading and investments and we hope to see them increase. Both Singapore and Malaysia are key countries in ASEAN.  ASEAN has tremendous potential.  We want ASEAN to prosper. And if ASEAN prospers, it is because individual country within ASEAN is strong, independent and work well together. This year Singapore is the Chairman of ASEAN and the themes of our Chairmanship are resilience and innovation. We should leverage technology and work together as one ASEAN community to help our peoples grow and move forward.

7          Both countries also see good collaboration. Last year, when three Singaporean hikers were lost in Johor, the Johor Government rendered tremendous support to rescue them. But what is equally important is the relationship at the individual level. Many of us have friends and families staying and working in Malaysia. It is through our daily interactions that Malaysians form an impression of what Singapore is like. 

8          Hence, your role as ambassadors is important. I am confident that all of you will continue to carry the torch and to deepen and broaden relationship between the two countries.

9          Finally, I would like to congratulate High Commissioner Vanu for the successful opening of the Heritage Gallery. I was told that this is the first overseas Heritage Gallery of Singapore.  It will give Singaporeans and Malaysians an opportunity to learn more about the shared history and heritage between the two countries. I encourage all of you to bring your children to tour the Gallery.

10        On that note, I would like to thank all of you once again for attending this reception on a working day. I look forward to interacting with you later.