Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean paid tribute to the special and longstanding friendship between Singapore and Brunei on the third day of his visit to Brunei Darussalam, highlighting the need for more interactions between the younger-generation leaders to continue growing the close relationship.
"There are many ways to further enhance our bilateral relationship. I think it is important we should start young," he said in a special lecture yesterday at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, tracing Brunei and Singapore's long history of bilateral cooperation.
He urged young people from both countries to "learn together and grow together", adding that he had "benefited personally from being brought along by my seniors, whether in the military or senior political leaders... and learning from them during the many interactions".
DPM Teo is in Brunei as part of the 3rd Young Leaders' Programme, jointly organised by Singapore and Brunei to encourage exchange between the younger generation of political office-holders.
Accompanying DPM Teo are Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Ministers of State Indranee Rajah and Sim Ann, and Minister of State Chee Hong Tat.
DPM Teo's visit also coincides with the participation of 30 young leaders from Singapore and Brunei, who were part of the audience at his lecture yesterday.
The young leaders, who are between 19 and 35 years of age and come from the private, government and social sectors, are in Brunei as part of the inaugural Singapore-Brunei Youth Leadership Exchange Programme.
The programme, organised by Singapore's National Youth Council and Brunei's Department of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, aims to strengthen ties between the next generation of youth leaders.
Earlier in the day, DPM Teo launched a photo exhibition with Brunei's Princess Masna, which highlights relations between the two countries through photographs and newspaper archives.
The exhibition also has a special focus on the relationship between Brunei's late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien and Singapore's late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
DPM Teo touched on the two pioneer leaders in his lecture, describing how the leaders laid the "foundation of our special relationship".
He recounted that Mr Lee first met the former Sultan in 1960, when "both our countries faced similar strategic circumstances and challenges, with the colonial era coming to an end". "As the two smallest states in South-east Asia, we had to focus on securing our countries' futures in what was then a tumultuous region," he said, adding that the two leaders got to know each other well through that process, and developed an enduring friendship.
Reflecting the two countries' special relations, DPM Teo also thanked the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, for his presence at Mr Lee's funeral earlier this year, adding that the Sultan was the first foreign leader to visit and pay respects at the family's private wake.
DPM Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, also highlighted defence as "an important pillar of our relationship".
Singapore's military cooperation with Brunei includes regular bilateral exercises and the professional training of several hundred Bruneian armed forces personnel, he said, noting that the two countries commemorated 20 years of the Ex Maju Bersama joint exercise in April this year.
But he emphasised that beyond professional exchanges, what was important was the "enduring friendships built between our people over the years".
Today, DPM Teo will visit the Mechanical Training Centre and visit Temburong, a training facility for Singapore Armed Forces.