With the abrupt change in government up north, there is no doubt at all that whatever happens in Malaysia will impact Singapore. Now that Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is officially the prime minister of Malaysia (again), the government of Singapore has extended its warm compliments and best wishes.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated the good doctor on being sworn in as the seventh Malaysian prime minister and expressed the hope to catch up with him soon.
“Malaysia is a vital partner of Singapore, and our peoples share strong and deep bonds,” PM Lee noted. “I look forward to working with Tun Mahathir and the new government to enhance our cooperation. We can do much more together.”
Separately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) also issued a congratulatory statement — one that further detailed the long history between Singapore and Malaysia.
“We have had close relations and extensive cooperation with successive Malaysian governments, including the government of Tun Mahathir when he was previously Prime Minister,” MFA wrote. “We look forward to cooperating with Tun Mahathir and the new Government of Malaysia to further strengthen and deepen bilateral ties, for the benefit of both our peoples.”
The winds of change
At the grand age of 92, the Malaysian political titan was sworn in last night as the world’s oldest prime minister. In a stunning, historic election win that toppled the ruling party he once led, Barisan Nasional was ousted after over six decades in power. Embroiled in a massive corruption scandal, former prime minister Najib Razak had to step down as well.
In a ceremony at the national palace steeped in centuries-old Muslim Malay tradition, Mahathir was officially sworn in as prime minister by King Sultan Muhammad V. Mahathir, dressed in traditional Malay dress, took the oath of office in an elaborately decorated room, with political allies and senior government officials in attendance.
Honestly, the outcome of Malaysia’s 14th General Election is inspiring. A political veteran came out of retirement to take on his former protégé and emerged victorious despite the ruling government’s grip on media, decades of gerrymandering and other systemic fail-safes put in place.
But as our parents and grandparents would know, Mahathir’s relationship with Singapore during his tenure as prime minister (1981 to 2003) wasn’t exactly smooth. The man often crossed swords with Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, with relations souring over issues such as the price of water, the sovereignty of Pedra Branca and the Points of Agreement, among other things. In a relatively recent example, Mahathir accused Lee of instigating racial conflict and using racial politics during the brief period of time when Singapore was part of the Malaysian Federation.
The son of Mahathir’s former rival may be at the helm right now, but even so, PM Lee has announced that he’s handing over the reins to the nation’s fourth-generation leaders soon. At the same time, Mahathir’s time as prime minister won’t be long either — he has already signaled intentions to hand over his seat to Anwar Ibrahim, his persecuted former deputy.