Dinner speech in Honour of Brigadier General Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, 16 January 1995.
Malaysia and Singapore are more intimately linked by common history than is usual for even the closest of neighbours. As nations we are more akin to distinct branches of an extended family than just people who live next door. Even our experience as neighbouring nations shows aspects of the delicate dynamics of extended family: there is no getting away from such bonds no matter how we redefine our nationhood. The real question is not how we define our relations, but the manner in which we conduct them.
Growing up in an extended family is a challenge. The presumption of continuity and continuous relevance of relationships is the fabric that binds. With maturity, it enables us to provide for mutual support and collaboration in an atmosphere of security. But, on the other hand, over familiarity can produce a kind of arrested development, mired in childish rivalries and jealousies that find expression in pettiness and small minded hyper-sensitivities.
It would be an exaggeration to claim we have fully and finally outgrown our problems. In honesty we are not beyond the odd relapse into squabbles. But we should take heart in the increasingly predominant evidence of maturity. Across a whole range of activities and interests we are harnessing our enduring bonds of neighbourliness and kinship to promote mutual benefit. We are learning to work together effectively to tackle common problems, as in the case of the recent haze, and as well as in undertaking joint economic ventures, as in the agreement between Khazanah Inc and Singapore's Temasek Holdings.
We are learning to appreciate the intangible but palpable advantages that accrue through the entire range and diversity of our collaborative efforts. It is not just the logic and synergy of the balance sheet that drives us. In our vision and conception of development there is ample evidence of deep rooted compatibility that makes our collaboration natural.
Out of our common history we have realised that development is a human centred process. We share the conviction that moral and ethical standards are essential in all spheres of activity. We both assert the enduring relevance of indigenous traditions, which must however be alive to present and future challenges.
In the present global context, we, individually and collectively, are challenged to understand ourselves and our ideas more clearly, by living in multicultural societies where many distinctive heritages are cherished. We must be prepared for healthy debate, and more vigorous exchange of ideas.
It is only nations which by heritage, disposition and experience are unafraid of difference that can point to the path of new departures along which the world should develop. We have to demonstrate that not only does difference build strength, but that it can be constructive and would foster understanding.
A new equilibrium in international affairs must be made if our world is to achieve a better future. Across the causeways I see a positive contribution to both our nations' progress. We welcome you most sincerely as friends, and as partners in the joint venture towards a common and prospective future.