Strong bonds, steadfast friends
Azaraimy HH

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam underscored long-standing relations between Brunei and Singapore in a titah at a State Banquet held at the Istana Nurul Iman last night.

His Majesty highlighted that there have been useful interactions not only between ministerial and official level, but also between youths of both countries.

His Majesty and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha hosted the State Banquet in honour of the State Visit of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and spouse Mrs Mary Tan.

Present at the State Banquet were HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, HRH Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik, HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah and HRH Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as other members of the royal family.

Prior to the commencement of the State Banquet, a Doa was recited by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

In the titah, His Majesty welcomed President Tony Tan and Mrs Mary Tan to Brunei Darussalam and said he was pleased to learn that President Tony Tan’s schedule includes meeting some of Brunei’s youth.

His Majesty said Brunei Darussalam, like Singapore, is investing its efforts and resources in the development of youth, to enable them to make useful contributions to the nation.

His Majesty stated that this State Visit has allowed both heads of state to renew and strengthen their per-sonal friendship as well as the existing relationship between Brunei and Singapore at all levels.

The monarch further said that President Tony Tan had made previous visits in various capacities as Minister of Education, Minister of Defence and as Deputy Prime Minister, and thus his contribution towards strengthening the ties between the two countries has been most significant.

The mutual respect and trust have enabled the two countries to widen the long-standing cooperation in the areas of defence, health, education, trade and commerce.

His Majesty said the presence of 700 Singaporeans who are currently rendering their services in various sectors for the development of Brunei Darussalam is also much appreciated.

His Majesty was also pleased to note that from as early as 1976 there has been extensive cooperation in the field of defence between the two countries. For nearly 30 years, members of the Singapore Armed Forces, including its national servicemen, have been able to make use of the jungles of Temburong for their training.

In regional affairs, Brunei values Singapore’s continued support for Brunei’s Chairmanship of Asean this year.

In closing his titah, His Majesty said Brunei and Singapore have shared many interests in working towards regional peace and stability so that Asean nations can develop further towards greater economic prosperity.

In a return speech, President Tony Tan thanked Their Majesties for the generous hospitality extended to his wife Mary and him, and to the Singapore delegation.

“Bruneians have a well deserved reputation for being warm and gracious hosts. Every time we come to Brunei, we are privileged to experience this first hand,” he said.

“Mary and I are delighted to be back. I made my first official visit to Brunei almost three decades ago in 1985, soon after Brunei’s independence. Since then, I have visited Brunei many times in different capacities. But this trip has special meaning because it is my first State Visit to Brunei.”

He said Singapore and Brunei are more than just partners with good relations. The two, he said, were once two small countries trying to find their way in a challenging region. “We shared a similarity of views, and a convergence of interests, and worked well together from the very start. We helped one another then and we continue to do so now.

“So I hope you will agree when I say that we are not just partners, but old and steadfast friends.”

He said this is a friendship based on mutual trust and respect. “As Your Majesty said recently, our two countries have shared a special relationship since the time of the late Seri Begawan and Lee Kuan Yew. They laid the foundation. The current generation of leaders has built on this foundation and strengthened it. I hope that the next generation will do the same,” he stated.

“We have unique arrangements. Our extensive relationship in defence is extraordinary and has contributed to our mutual security,” he added.

He said Singapore will always be grateful to Brunei for the provision of training areas for the Singapore Armed Forces. “I believe that both our armed forces have benefited from this cooperation and grown together.”

The Singaporean President went on to say that strong personal bonds have also been built between successive generations of soldiers. He said he will be visiting the Muara Naval Base and is very much looking forward to seeing the capabilities of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) first hand.

Another example of strong relations he highlighted in his speech was the Currency Interchangeability Agreement (CIA), which allows currencies of both countries to be used as customary tender in each other’s country. This stabilises both monetary systems, and facilitates the flow of investments and tourists between Brunei and Singapore.

“These are just some examples of our broad-based relations. We continue to look for ways to deepen our ties and explore new areas of cooperation. This evening, our Health Ministries updated their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Health Cooperation. This is an area where we have had longstanding cooperation. The updated MoU will improve information sharing and expand collaboration into new areas like non-communicable diseases and health promotion,” he continued.

The Singaporean President also highlighted that Singapore’s NParks has also been working with Brunei’s Forestry Department on a botanical survey of Brunei’s biodiversity and wonderful natural heritage.

He said this survey collaboration will help create greater awareness of Brunei’s natural ecosystems. The scientific knowledge from this survey will hopefully enhance biodiversity and conservation policies worldwide. He said this will be signed by the respective officials today.

“Our relations are underpinned by warm personal ties. We have frequent contacts at the leadership level. In this regard, I am pleased that Your Majesty has accepted the invitation to make a return State Visit. Mary and I look forward to welcoming Your Majesties to Singapore.

“There are also strong people-to-people ties. Many Bruneians have lived and studied in Singapore and I will be meeting some of them tomorrow. Singapore benefited from the richness in views and experience that they brought to us. We hope that they, too, benefited from their time in Singapore,” he added.

He also said that he finds it especially heartening to see the youths of both countries working together to help others. “I understand that Universiti Brunei Darussalam is cooperating with Singapore’s Mercy Relief to enhance humanitarian efforts in Asean.

“Such ground-up initiatives will bring us even closer together. In connection to this, Mary and I will be visiting the Brunei Youth Centre. We are looking forward to speaking to Brunei’s youth to learn about their hopes and aspirations. Ultimately, it is the youth from both sides who will determine our respective futures.”

Finally, he also noted that there is a small but active Singaporean community in Brunei. Many of them have lived here for many years. Individually, they are all our “Ambassadors” here. He thanked His Majesty and the people of Brunei for welcoming them with open arms.

The Singaporean President also congratulated His Majesty on the success in guiding Asean this year. Indeed, the recent 22nd Asean Summit in Brunei went very well due to His Majesty’s leadership and clear vision. Singapore will continue to extend its full support to Brunei during the chairmanship, he added.

In ending his speech, President Tony Tan said, “In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, the depth and strength of our relations remain an anchor. Singapore values this friendship greatly. I would like to thank Your Majesty personally for your unstinting support for strengthening our ties, and for encouraging closer interaction between our two countries. We look forward to continue working with Your Majesty to further deepen our ties in the years to come.” - Borneo Bulletin (29 May 2013)