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8:00pm 21/09/2022
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My breakfast meeting with Singapore’s future prime minister
By:Kuik Cheng Kang / Sin Chew Daily

My brief meeting with Lawrence Wong has reaffirmed my belief that it is utterly important for a country’s leader to have a clear vision as well as capability and accountability.

At exactly eight on the morning of September 6, 2022, I was at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur for a breakfast meeting with Singapore’s fourth generation leader Mr. Lawrence Wong, which lasted an hour and a half.

Thanks to the arrangement made by the Singapore High Commission, I was able to have a close encounter with this future prime minister of Singapore alongside three other journalists from different media organizations.

Also present at the breakfast meeting was Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia Mr. Vanu Gopala Menon, the longest-serving foreign diplomat in this country.

Before I got to meet him in person, all that I knew about Lawrence Wong was from a viral TikTok video of him playing the guitar and singing the popular Hokkien song I Ask Heaven, which I’m sure many of you might have also seen.

Unlike the passionate man in the video, Wong appeared rather cautious in front of the media.

Perhaps playing guitar is just his favorite pastime, but when he is back in real life or work, he knows how to be serious and get things done right.

That was, as the Singapore authorities had portrayed, his first official visit to Malaysia in his capacity as the island republic’s deputy prime minister, I nevertheless have a feeling that he had something bigger in mind: to build relations and gain a fuller insight into the changes taking place in this country since the federal administration changed hands for the very first time after the 2018 elections.

As such, during his short stay in KL from September 4 to 7, besides having an audience with His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah, and meeting Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Bank Negara Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, he also met, among others, DAP Secretary-General Anthony Loke and other party leaders, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, and Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz with whom he played guitar in an attempt to boost their private friendship.

Wong also met Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and together they explored issues like bilateral trade, investment and education.

Malaysia has been enjoying a very close-knit relationship with Singapore, our nearest neighbor, while mutual visits among the people on both sides of the Causeway have been unusually frequent and close.

As Singapore’s prime minister-in-waiting, Lawrence Wong’s latest visit to Malaysia, therefore, appears to be all the more significant, as through the visit he would get to better understand the needs of Malaysians and how our two countries can work together to shore up mutual cooperation and tackle the region’s increasingly intricate geopolitical stress.

After the visit, he should be able to draw up a more precise and mutually beneficial roadmap and policy that will shape the future relationship and chart the new direction between Malaysia and Singapore.

And since we had a gentleman’s agreement on the content of the closed-door meeting, I am not in any position to divulge more about what he said or thought of our bilateral relationship here.

Simply put, it was a relatively casual and friendly talk that would give the Malaysian press an opportunity to get to know this leader better.

My brief meeting with Lawrence Wong has reaffirmed my belief that it is utterly important for a country’s leader to have a clear vision as well as capability and accountability.

Singapore’s unbending intolerance towards corruption, commitment in systematically groom the city state’s next generation of leaders, as well as strict adherence to transparency and accountability, are some exceptional attributes of good governance that we in Malaysia should seriously contemplate.

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Singapore
KUIK CHENG KANG
Lawrence Wong

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