Remarks by President Halimah Yacob at State Banquet Hosted by His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam
Your Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah
Your Majesty The Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha
Your Royal Highnesses
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good evening. Let me begin by thanking Your Majesty for your warm welcome and gracious remarks. I am deeply honoured that Your Majesty has invited me to visit Brunei for my first State Visit. This Visit reflects the importance Singapore places on our special relationship with Brunei. My delegation, my husband and I are touched by the warmth and generous hospitality by Your Majesty, the Raja Isteri and all Bruneians.
2 I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Your Majesty for the Golden Jubilee of Your Majesty’s accession to the throne last year. Under Your Majesty’s visionary leadership, Brunei has enjoyed peace, progress, and prosperity for many decades. During my last visit to Brunei in 2013 for the 34th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, I was struck by the unity, cohesiveness, and spiritedness of the Bruneian people, and their pride and love for Your Majesty. I am happy to be back in the Abode of Peace again, to further strengthen the longstanding ties between Singapore and Brunei, and to explore new areas of cooperation.
3 The friendship between our two countries dates back to the close personal ties between the late Seri Begawan and Mr Lee Kuan Yew. They recognised that as small countries, Singapore and Brunei share many similarities and a strategic outlook on many regional and international issues. I am heartened that this friendship has remained steadfast, especially in today’s uncertain and complex world. In fact, bilateral relations have grown from strength to strength. As Mr Lee aptly described in his memoirs, this relationship is founded upon “trust and utmost good faith”.
4 This foundation has made it possible for our two countries to enjoy strong and deep cooperation in many areas. Singapore and Brunei have extraordinarily close defence ties. When I visited the Defence Academy Royal Brunei Armed Forces this afternoon, I was briefed on the depth of our bilateral defence relations. The Singapore Armed Forces and Royal Brunei Armed Forces have been training alongside each other for decades. I will also visit Temburong tomorrow. Singapore is grateful to Brunei for providing training areas for our troops. Many of our NSmen would have gone through jungle training in Brunei and experienced the warm and gracious hospitality of the Bruneian people.
5 The continuing close cooperation between Singapore and Brunei in the financial sector is another key pillar of our bilateral relations. The Currency Interchangeability Agreement has been in place for almost 51 years and has helped to facilitate trade, investment, and tourism between our two countries. More importantly, the Agreement reflects our deep mutual trust and confidence.
6 I am heartened that Singapore and Brunei continue to break new ground in other areas. Earlier today, Your Majesty and I witnessed the signing of one, a Cooperation Agreement on Financial Technology, which will allow us to exchange information and share best practices in this exciting new field; and two, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Financial Intelligence Unit and Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office to facilitate the exchange of information to fight the global scourge of money laundering, terrorist financing, and related criminal activity. Our two countries have also concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on Info-Communications Media to facilitate study visits between the respective Ministries. These agreements and MOUs will allow officials on both sides to have closer collaboration in areas of mutual interest, and bring benefits to both countries.
7 There is potential for Singapore and Brunei to further enhance our economic cooperation. One such area, which Your Majesty mentioned during your State Visit to Singapore last year, is aquaculture. A Singaporean company, Barramundi Asia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism earlier today to develop a 6,600 hectare fish farm in Brunei. I understand that some of the estimated 40,000 tons of fish will be exported to Singapore. We look forward to buying Brunei-grown barramundi, and hopefully in the near future even more Brunei-made products, in our local markets soon!
8 In the same way that the previous generation of leaders, the late Seri Begawan and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, laid the foundations for our relationship, it is the responsibility of future generations of leaders to build upon our existing partnership to further cement the relations between our two countries and bring them to greater heights. An excellent example is the Young Leaders’ Programme, which is now into its 6th year. We look forward to welcoming His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and a group of young Bruneian Ministers to Singapore later this year. The Singapore-Brunei Youth Leadership Exchange Programme and the School Twinning Programme are also important platforms for younger Singaporeans and Bruneians to meet and interact. There are currently 15 pairs of ‘twinned’ schools that hold regular student exchanges. When it comes to building and nurturing friendships, it is never too early to start. These initiatives will go a long way towards enhancing awareness and appreciation of each other’s countries and societies among our peoples.
9 Your Majesty was in Singapore last month to attend the 32nd ASEAN Summit. Singapore and Brunei share a common objective of building a united, cohesive and forward-looking ASEAN to ensure regional peace and prosperity. Brunei had a highly successful ASEAN Chairmanship in 2013. Singapore strives to emulate that success this year. We are deeply appreciative and honoured to have Your Majesty and Brunei’s strong support for our ASEAN Chairmanship, and for our themes of a Resilient and Innovative ASEAN.
10 One of the initiatives during our ASEAN Chairmanship is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network. We are heartened that Brunei has nominated Bandar Seri Begawan as a Smart City under this initiative. Brunei has been successful in finding a fine balance between economic progress and protecting its natural beauty. I look forward to Bandar Seri Begawan’s participation in this network of ASEAN cities to develop smart and sustainable urban solutions for our people.
11 In closing, my husband and I would like to wish Your Majesty and the Raja Isteri good health, happiness and every success. On behalf of the people of Singapore, we thank you for your unwavering support for our two countries’ longstanding friendship and excellent ties. We look forward to continue working closely with Your Majesty and all of our Bruneian friends to ensure that the special bonds between Singapore and Brunei endure and flourish at all levels in the years ahead.