KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — Ahead of the opening of the Asean Summit in Singapore, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stressed that co-operation among member nations is key to unlocking the grouping’s potential.
In an interview with Singapore’s Straits Times today, he said, “We must stress greater co-operation, and the co-operation must be real. It’s not good just to talk about co-operation but when you go back, you become very protective and you put in obstacles to Asean co-operation.”
Dr Mahathir also said that Asean’s size is a valuable asset as it has “almost seven hundred million people, and even if the per capita is low, poor people have their needs. And if you can work out what are their needs and try to supply them from within Asean, I think it will contribute to the growth of Asean.”
He cited China as an example. By leveraging on the size of its population — even though it was a poor country — China was able to grow quickly.
In the interview, Dr Mahathir also reiterated his belief in Asean and said giving up on the grouping would mean “going back to the days before Asean when we were not working together and not understanding each other’s problem.”
He mentioned that Asean has survived while many other regional groupings have not and that itself is an achievement.