Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong will take to the golf course shortly after dawn today to try his game against Abdullah Badawi, Malaysia's deputy leader. But the pair will have more on their minds than their sporting handicaps. Relations between Singapore and Malaysia have been rocked in recent weeks by a damaging row over the position of their respective Malay communities. Mr Badawi's three-day trip, his first to Singapore since he was appointed to the deputy leadership in 1999, could help to put ties back on a more solid footing. Ahead of the visit, which started late yesterday, Mr Badawi struck a conciliatory note. 'I would prefer we just put aside that issue [of Malay rights] and stop harping on it,' Mr Badawi said. 'We should improve our trade relations, to prosper together and ensure . . . peace in the region.' Ties between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were hit after a speech from Mr Goh late last month suggested that the city-state's Malay community had made better progress than its Malaysian counterpart. The remarks provoked a storm of protest in Malaysia, where long-standing government policy has endorsed a bias in favour of Malays in employment, education and wealth distribution. Moreover, attitudes towards the so-called New Economic Policy have hardened recently amid calls from elements of Malaysia's Chinese community that the bias be revised. 'We have to pursue different policies because the demographies are different,' Mr Badawi said. Singapore, which has a majority Chinese population, left the Malaysian Federation in 1965. The two sides fell out over official attitudes towards ethnic development. Aside from the early-morning golf round, Mr Badawi will meet Singapore's top-level political leadership, including Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Ministers Tony Tan and Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Badawi, who heads a 12-member delegation, is scheduled to deliver a keynote address tomorrow on democratic transition in Southeast Asia. Analysts said the two groups could discuss a range of other issues, including immigration and quarantine, use of Malaysian airspace by the Singaporean air force and water supply. Singapore has two water agreements with its northern neighbour to augment its supply of fresh water. The first of these expires in 2011 and teams are already trying to negotiate a replacement arrangement.