Joint Statement by Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat in Putrajaya on 13 December 2016

13 December 2016


1.             Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met in Malaysia on 13 December 2016 for the 7th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat. The Leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress made in bilateral relations since the Leaders’ Retreat in Singapore on 5 May 2015, and reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of both peoples amidst the current challenging global security and economic environment. 


2.             The Leaders warmly welcomed the signing of the Agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). This marks a historic moment in bilateral relations and reflects both countries’ commitment to the marquee project, which will bring the two countries even closer together, improve connectivity, deepen people-to-people ties and catalyse further economic cooperation. The Agreement formalises the technical, safety and security requirements, commercial, financing, procurement and regulatory frameworks, as well as customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) arrangements for the HSR. It recalls and builds on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries on 19 July 2016. They looked forward to the appointment of a Joint Development Partner by early 2017, as well as the calling of the systems tenders from late 2017.  A Bilateral Committee will also be established to oversee all aspects of the project, which affect the cross-border train services, and all other matters set out in the Agreement. The Leaders placed on record their appreciation to the Ministers and officials of both countries for their hard work since the project was first announced in February 2013. They looked forward to its expeditious implementation and the commencement of the direct Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR Express Service by 31 December 2026. 


3.             The Leaders welcomed the progress made on the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project under the Transportation Links Work Group and affirmed the key areas of agreement reached to date. When completed, the RTS Link will improve connectivity and reduce congestion at our border crossings. The RTS Link will connect Bukit Chagar, Johor Bahru in Malaysia and Woodlands North in Singapore where passengers can transfer to Singapore’s upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line. The RTS Link will use the four core Thomson-East Coast Line systems to reap economies of scale, and will be operated by a corporate entity. Fares for the RTS Link will be market-based and set by the operator, and will not be regulated by the Governments. The Leaders looked forward to signing a bilateral agreement on the RTS Link by the end of 2017.


4.             The Leaders welcomed the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Iskandar Malaysia, a project of strategic importance to both countries. They further welcomed the progress made by the work groups under the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMC). Both Leaders commended the efforts by the Immigration Work Group of the JMC to reduce congestion at the Causeway and the Singapore-Malaysia Second Link (Second Link) while taking security requirements into account. Both Leaders took note of the implementation of Singapore’s Biometric Identification of Motorbikers System (BIKES II) and Malaysia’s M-BIKE programme. These systems will facilitate faster immigration clearance for motorcycles at the Causeway and Second Link. The daily laden train service between Johor Bahru and Woodlands Train Checkpoint has also been increased from 14 services at the time of the 2015 Retreat to 24 services now, with an accompanying increase in ridership.  The Leaders also noted the good progress made by the Iconic Project Work Group (IPWG) under the JMC. The progress on the Afiniti Medini and Avira Medini developments by Khazanah and Temasek in Iskandar Malaysia (through Pulau Indah Ventures) are also on track.   


5.             The Leaders reiterated their commitment to promote and explore further links to improve connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. They noted the discussions to study new ferry routes between Singapore and Johore as well as Malaysia’s request for the extension of the Agreement for the Construction and Operation of a Ferry Terminal and the Operation of a Ferry Service between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. They further noted Malaysia’s proposal to refurbish facilities at Changi Ferry Terminal.


6.             The Leaders noted that Singapore and Malaysia continue to be each other’s second largest trading partner globally. They reiterated their commitment that with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, both countries would continue working closely to further strengthen and deepen regional economic integration as outlined in the AEC Blueprint 2025. They also took note of the 8th Industrial Cooperation Work Group (ICWG) meeting held on 27 October 2016, which extensively discussed the four areas of collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore, namely in Advanced Materials Engineering (AME), Electronics, Food and Creative services.


7.             As part of the ICWG’s efforts to strengthen the ecosystem in industrial activities and to enhance socio-economic development through a skilled labour force, the Leaders encouraged discussions between both countries on possible partnerships to promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The Leaders looked forward to the Training of Trainers’ Programme in 2017 held by ITE Education Services Pte Ltd, Singapore (ITEES), supported by Temasek Foundation International with seven Johore-based institutes.


8.             The Leaders noted the good progress made in tourism collaboration, and welcomed the continuous work of the Tourism Work Group (TWG) under the JMC on capability development and joint promotion of the twinning initiative for Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Kukup. Both Leaders looked forward to the promotional activities to be carried out by the TWG after the upgrading works at Pulau Kukup is completed this year.  The Leaders noted that the TWG will also be working closely to promote the Visit ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration. Both Leaders also noted with satisfaction that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Sarawak’s Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA) and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) on tourism cooperation on 2 February 2016.


9.             The Leaders agreed on the importance of undertaking the necessary measures to ensure the reliable and adequate water supply from the Johore River as provided for in the 1962 Water Agreement.   The Leaders noted with satisfaction that the Johore River Barrage project is in the final stages of completion.  They expressed their appreciation to both the water authorities of Johore and Singapore for their ongoing cooperation and encouraged both water authorities to continue their excellent working relationship. Singapore noted that Malaysia will undertake appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johore River.


10.         The Leaders welcomed the close and continuous inter-agency cooperation on environmental issues with transboundary implications and navigational issues through platforms such as the Malaysia-Singapore Annual Exchange of Visits (AEV), the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore-Johor Port Authority (MPA-JPA) Operational Meeting. The Leaders emphasized the importance of adopting best practices for addressing areas of concern, including the implementation of mitigation measures, where appropriate and in accordance with international law. Both Leaders took note that Malaysia will host the 30th MSJCE and the 29th AEV from 15-17 December 2016.


11.         The Leaders acknowledged the progress made in addressing transboundary haze pollution which has been a recurring problem in the region and recognised the need to remain vigilant. The Leaders expressed their satisfaction at the adoption of the Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, 11 August 2016, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both Leaders stressed the need for full and effective implementation of the Roadmap and expressed their hope that the Roadmap will serve as a strategic framework for the implementation of the collaborative actions to control transboundary haze pollution in the ASEAN region to achieve a vision of Transboundary Haze-free ASEAN by 2020. The Leaders also reaffirmed the commitment to effectively implement the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) to prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires through concerted national efforts and regional cooperation.  


12.         The Leaders reiterated the importance of defence cooperation between the two countries in light of growing security challenges and threats in the region and expressed their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including through regular exchanges of visits, training courses and military exercises between the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).  The Leaders also stressed the importance of continuing both countries’ defence cooperation and contribution to regional security through various multilateral initiatives and fora, including the Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and the ADMM-Plus.


13.         Following the success of the 2015 Titian Budaya Cultural Festival in Kuala Lumpur, both countries expressed their desire to organise a regular cultural showcase. The proposed triennial Malaysia-Singapore cultural showcase is anticipated to be held in conjunction with the Leaders’ Retreat starting from 2018.


14.         The Leaders welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Information and Communications Cooperation between Malaysia and Republic of Singapore on 19 February 2016 in Putrajaya. This Memorandum of Understanding will pave the way for greater cooperation between the two countries in the field of information and communications.


15.         The Leaders took note of the progress made by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD) and the Singapore Customs towards concluding a Memorandum of Understanding on training collaboration and the sharing of best practices and enforcement experiences.


16.         The Leaders noted with satisfaction the strengthening of cooperation on Urban Search and Rescue between the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART), in particular in SMART’s successful attainment of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) External Classification (IEC) Heavy USAR team certification. They also noted the participation of 11 SCDF personnel in the August 2016 Chamang International Exercise (Ex-Chamang) organised by the Malaysian Civil Defence Department (JPAM) and the Civil Defence Training Academy (ALPHA).


17.         The Leaders welcomed the excellent relations and regular interactions between the civil services of both countries. Since the last Retreat, Malaysia hosted the 7th Joint Seminar and the 38th Public Service Games for Public Sector Leaders in October 2015, while Singapore recently hosted the 8th Joint Seminar and the 39th Public Service Games in October 2016. The Leaders looked forward to the 9th Joint Seminar and the 40th Public Service Games which will be hosted by Malaysia in 2017. 


18.         The Leaders agreed to hold the next Retreat in 2017 in Singapore.

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