Bhutan Premier pays respects to late Mr Lee

Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay during his lecture yesterday, which was on his country's road to democracy.
Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay during his lecture yesterday, which was on his country's road to democracy.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who is in Singapore for a four-day official visit, paid his respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew yesterday.

At Duxton Plain Park, Mr Tobgay laid a wreath at the foot of a tembusu tree, and bowed in respect.

The tree was planted in April last year, about a month after Mr Lee's death, as a symbol of his legacy in transforming the country into a garden city.

Mr Tobgay, who in 2013 became Bhutan's second prime minister, also gave an hour-long lecture on his country's road to democracy.

Held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the lecture dwelt on how Bhutan's fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, insistently pushed his people to accept democracy and had it written into the country's Constitution.

The people did not ask for it, Mr Tobgay told the audience of 180 students, professors, staff, as well as members of the public.

Mr Tobgay quit his civil service job in 2007, entered politics and was elected to Parliament the next year as an opposition member.

He started a blog that commented on national issues and went on Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the people. The blog gave him significant traction, he added.

Mr Tobgay was later given a ceremonial welcome at the Istana.

He called on Acting President J Y Pillay and met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who hosted him to an official lunch at the Istana.

Mr Pillay and Mr Tobgay highlighted their countries' excellent bilateral relationship underpinned by regular exchanges and growing people-to-people ties, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

It added that the two prime ministers discussed common challenges faced by small countries and exchanged views on potential areas of cooperation including tourism and capacity building.

During his trip, Mr Tobgay also visited the Singapore Tourism Board, Institute of Technical Education's College West and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's Woodlands Checkpoint to learn about tourism promotion, vocational education, and immigration and border control.

He was also briefed on the city-state's public housing policies.

Mr Tobgay leaves Singapore today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Bhutan Premier pays respects to late Mr Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe