KUALA LUMPUR, 6 June 2009: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister and father of modern Singapore, is to visit Malaysia next week to tour several states and meet with a number of Malaysian leaders, entrepreneurs, opinion leaders and senior journalists.
His eight-day visit, from 8 to 15 June 2009, starts with a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as well as with several high-level officials, top editors and politicians.
Officials from both countries say the 85-year-old Lee is also scheduled to meet Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as well as Umno politicians and old friends in what some regard as a trip down memory lane.
It is learnt that the Singapore media will be sending a big group of journalists to cover Lee’s visit, which will take in Perak, Penang, Kelantan and Pahang.
Lee is scheduled to visit Ipoh and have an audience with the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, and call on Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.
He will then travel to Penang where he will call on Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and then cross over to Kelantan in the east coast of the peninsula.
Lee is scheduled to have an audience with the Regent of Kelantan, Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra, and call on Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat in what is believed to be their first face-to-face meeting. Nik Aziz, the PAS spiritual leader, has been menteri besar of Kelantan for the past 19 years.
Lee will then proceed south to Pahang where he will have an audience with Sultan Ahmad Shah and call on Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.
Lee’s son, Hsien Loong, the current prime minister of Singapore, is expected to visit Kuala Lumpur soon.
Political analysts believe the elder Lee’s visit to Malaysia will be more than just “a trip down memory lane” as he is known to be a person who always keeps abreast of developments, particularly in gauging the scenario of the place which shares its history with Singapore.
As Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin points out, Lee is a person who understands very well the relationship between the two countries, as he had a part in the history of the formation of Malaysia and the separation of Singapore from Malaysia.
“The visit can be viewed as an endorsement for Najib as Lee is known as a person who deeply believes that if Malaysia is not stable, it will affect Singapore,” he says.
“Najib is the son of (Malaysia’s second prime minister) Tun Abdul Razak. Lee and Razak were peers, having done law together in London … another layer of relationship.
“I know Lee is very concerned with what is happening in Malaysia as anything that happens here will affect Singapore. Things that shape Malaysia will shape Singapore,” says Shamsul, who will be among those Lee is expected to meet during his visit.
He says Lee has likened situations in Malaysia and Singapore to the “umbilical cord” which connects the two countries.
Shamsul says that before Lee makes any statement, he will have given it deep thought as he is not the kind of leader who likes to make popular statements.
“If you look at his speeches, you know that he has a lot of information at his disposal,” he adds.
Another political analyst, Dr Oh Ei Sun, believes that Lee will be taking stock of the latest developments in Malaysia during the visit besides looking at ways to improve bilateral relations, something which he often does when he travels abroad.
“He will be meeting different strata of society. He is more or less advisor to the government. He not only advises the Singapore government. Sometimes he also offers his advice to the country he visits,” he says.
Malaysia and Singapore had a difficult relationship when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the Malaysian prime minister while during the era of his successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the relationship grew a bit warmer, he says.
“Now Najib has taken over. Kuan Yew is an old acquaintance of Najib’s father (Razak). Perhaps he will take this opportunity to look into ways to improve the relationship. I think this trip will bring the relationship closer,” he adds. — Bernama