Speaking at the opening of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) Conference last year in Kuala Lumpur, PM Najib Razak slammed the foreign policy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s era which is considered merely aimed at achieving personal popularity solely and not in the national interest that ultimately it is detrimental to the country.
There is a truth about it and it can be seen in the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. When Dr Mahathir was the prime minister, he rather prefers the confrontational approach to the Western countries and neighbouring states particularly Singapore. This boosted his name as a leader who is bold and vocal but in spite of personal popularity, nothing gained Malaysia.
On the other hand, Malaysia’s foreign policy by PM Najib is concerned with cooperation and non-dispute. The importance of the country gets its priority over personal political interest. This was further confirmed by PM Najib while attending the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in Singapore, recently. He stated that the present government policy under his leadership would not return to the era of diplomatic disagreements and prompt rhetoric in bilateral relations with Singapore that it needs to be forgotten but maintain good relations between the two countries.
Subsequent to that, the two leaders have reached an agreement to implement the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project linking the Bukit Cagar in Johor Bahru and North Woodlands in Singapore with a sealed agreement. Thus this RTS project will be the agent of change in terms of relations between the two countries, particularly the people of both countries.
In the era of PM Najib’s too, we see that he has shown a high cooperation and commitment as well as mutual understanding especially through economic aspects in order to realise each other potentially. In addition to strengthening diplomatic ties, the people of both countries would benefit since the project can reduce congestion in the Johor Causeway and the Second Link Expressway where at present more than 300,000 people use the border of both countries.
As long as this nation has a Prime Minister who does not favour the confrontation approach as in the days of Dr Mahathir, Malaysia and Singapore will not be at war when both are a democratic country and prefer to resolve a deferred issue whether through diplomatic or third-party engagements.
It can be concluded that these new generation leaders in both countries, they are visionary and far-sighted in improving relationships to be stronger together. Leaders of both countries also play an important role in addressing conflicts and seek solutions to issues that have dogged relations between the two countries.
This is the most lauded trend manifested by PM Najib among neighbouring countries and internationally that are more positive compared to Dr Mahathir’s era who prefers rivalry through conflicts. Many successful political and economic cooperation are made possible which can never happen in Mahathir’s 22 years premiership.