Toast Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the State Banquet Hosted in Honour of The Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
Your Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah
Your Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha
Your Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am happy to welcome Your Majesties back to Singapore. We are honoured that this is Your Majesties’ fourth State Visit to Singapore. I fondly recall the very warm and generous hospitality which my wife and I received during my State Visit to Brunei in 2013.
Our two countries have maintained regular high-level bilateral visits over the years.
This underscores the enduring nature of the special relationship between Brunei and Singapore.
The affinity between Brunei and Singapore was well remembered by our founding fathers. In 2009, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited Brunei to deliver the Sultan Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Memorial Lecture.
In his lecture, Mr Lee recalled that the late Seri Begawan visited Singapore after Singapore became independent in 1965. When he met Mr Lee, the Seri Begawan smiled widely and told Mr Lee, (I quote) : “You are now like Brunei. It is better for you.” (unquote). This anecdote encapsulates two key aspects of the bilateral relationship that have brought our two countries closer together.
One, Brunei and Singapore are the two smallest countries in ASEAN.
We therefore view our region and the world through the same lens of our geographical and physical constraints. Our two countries understand each other’s priorities in an innate way that larger countries cannot.
Brunei and Singapore have therefore cooperated well in groupings such as ASEAN, the Forum of Small States, and the Global Governance Group; and advocate mutual interests including free and open trade, and closer economic cooperation.
Our two countries have always readily assisted each other to overcome our common challenges.
Two, Brunei and Singapore’s special relationship is rooted in strong ties between the peoples of both countries, dating back to the very close personal friendship between the Seri Begawan and Mr Lee, which established a firm foundation for the friendship to flourish at all levels. When Singaporeans and Bruneians meet each other overseas, we gravitate to each other, and our natural affinity sometimes makes it difficult for outsiders to tell us apart.
This friendship between our leaders and peoples has enabled a unique and successful bilateral cooperation between Brunei and Singapore.
The Currency Interchangeability Agreement, or CIA, is an important symbol of trust between our two countries. It is therefore fitting that we are celebrating the CIA’s 50th anniversary on the occasion of Your Majesty’s State Visit. The CIA has stabilised the monetary systems of our two countries, and facilitated the mutually-beneficial flow of investments, people, goods, and services. I am happy to note that in February 2017, a Singaporean company, Apollo Acquaculture Group, set up a joint-venture to build Brunei’s first vertical land-based aquaculture farm. This is a good example of a beneficiary of the CIA.
Another area of close cooperation between Brunei and Singapore is the long-standing and close defence relationship, which has also contributed to the mutual security of our two countries, as well as to the region’s security. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of defence cooperation between Brunei and Singapore. Our two armed forces have trained closely and developed strong bonds over many generations of soldiers. Singapore is deeply grateful for the help and assistance that Brunei has extended to the Singapore Armed Forces and our soldiers from our very early years.
I am happy that the special Singapore-Brunei friendship is also shared by the younger generation of leaders. Singapore was happy to welcome His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah last year as part of the Fourth Young Leaders’ Programme (or YLP).
DPM Teo Chee Hean will lead a delegation of Singapore’s young leaders to Brunei later this year for the Fifth YLP.
This evening, we have with us 13 “Sultan’s Scholars”, who are among the best and brightest young talents in Brunei. We are honoured to host them to a study visit to Singapore and to exchange ideas. I am confident that such exchanges will continue to strengthen the bilateral ties between Brunei and Singapore in the decades to come.
When Your Majesties made your first State Visit to Singapore in 1990, the world was in flux. The Berlin wall had just fallen, and the Cold War was drawing to a close. Today, we face new geopolitical uncertainties.
The evolving bilateral relationship between the US and China, in particular, presents opportunities and challenges to all countries in Southeast Asia, especially small states like Brunei and Singapore. Amidst the rapid changes taking place around us, I am certain of one constant, which is the strong bonds of friendship and the positive trajectory of Brunei-Singapore relations.
I am confident that with Your Majesty’s leadership and steadfast support, the relations between our two countries will continue to grow in the decades to come.
Lastly, I take this opportunity to offer my early congratulations to Your Majesty on Your Majesty’s 71st birthday on 15 July, and on the grand occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Your Accession to the Throne later in October this year.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I invite you to rise and join me in a toast to:
The good health, happiness, and continued success of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha; and
The special, treasured friendship between Negara Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of Singapore.