PM Lee, Najib toast good bilateral relations 50 years on

File photo: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian PM Najib Razak enjoying top-grade Mao

Singapore and Malaysia decided to go their separate ways 50 years ago today, but the ties between the neighbours have since flourished and grown deeper, the prime ministers of both countries said in messages on the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak wrote of how the countries are linked by history, geography and kinship, and have been able to look beyond differences to work together for the mutual benefit of their people.

Mr Lee noted that Separation was a difficult period, but both sides decided they had to live and work together to create mutual prosperity, and that "our deep historical, social and cultural ties helped us to do so".

Although Singapore was part of Malaysia for less than two years from 1963 to 1965, many in its pioneer generation were born there and the links between people remain strong.

Mr Lee also noted that both sides enjoy a warm relationship, with their prime ministers and ministers meeting regularly to explore areas for collaboration. Both sides are working on exciting projects, including the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail.

They have also helped one another in difficult times, and Mr Lee expressed Singapore's gratitude for the prompt support and help from Malaysia in the search, rescue and recovery efforts after the Sabah earthquake in June, which claimed the lives of 10 Singaporeans.

He said: "Malaysia will always be an important partner for Singapore. When Malaysia does well, Singapore also prospers."

In an article for The Sunday Times, Datuk Seri Najib said Singapore and Malaysia are "like tongue and teeth", destined to be conjoined and co-operate, not compete.

Malaysia had, over the decades, observed Singapore's progress and shared in mourning the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 23. "His presence is missed during these landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure - it is the Singapore of today," he said.

Mr Najib urged Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what they might read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from some quarters, saying he will ensure Malaysia remains stable and safe for guests and Malaysians alike.

"The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity," Mr Najib said.

"Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore - Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you."