President Tan pays tribute to strong bonds

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are all smiles as their respective spouses Mary Tan and Iriana Joko Widodo share a warm embrace at the Istana yesterday. The Indonesian First Couple are on an official visit to Singapor
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are all smiles as their respective spouses Mary Tan and Iriana Joko Widodo share a warm embrace at the Istana yesterday. The Indonesian First Couple are on an official visit to Singapore and were honoured at a state banquet yesterday.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo after a joint news conference at the Istana yesterday.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo after a joint news conference at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Singapore's diplomatic ties with Indonesia go back five decades, but the two neighbours are also bound by centuries of shared heritage and traditions.

This strong historical bond should not be forgotten as both countries mark a significant milestone - their 50th year of diplomatic relations - next year, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said at a state banquet yesterday in honour of visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

In his speech, Dr Tan paid tribute to the strong ties between Singapore and Indonesia, and the longstanding and intimate bonds between their people.

"Merchants and traders have plied the sea routes across the Strait of Malacca and the Java Sea for centuries, buying and selling spices, crafts and other goods," he said.

Also, many Singaporean families can trace their roots back to Indonesian areas in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Kalimantan.

SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER

Based on these strong and deep historical ties, the bilateral relationship between our two countries has grown from strength to strength. We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with each other in difficult times.

PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM, at a state banquet in honour of visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo

"Based on these strong and deep historical ties, the bilateral relationship between our two countries has grown from strength to strength," Dr Tan said. "We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with each other in difficult times."

In the wake of the 2004 tsunami which devastated Aceh, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) sent its largest-ever deployment to help in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

A decade on, when AirAsia flight QZ8501 bound for Singapore from Surabaya went down, the SAF lent a hand once more in Indonesia's search and rescue efforts.

And many Singaporeans remember how Mr Joko and his wife Iriana made time to attend the funeral of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March.

Singapore's excellent relationship with Indonesia continues to be underpinned by the close ties between their leaders, strong defence cooperation and economic collaboration, Dr Tan said.

Mr Joko, in his speech, said Indonesia is modernising to raise the living standards of its people, and presents economic opportunities for Singapore investors.

He also hoped for continued peace, prosperity and happiness between the two countries.

Dr Tan said both share a future that is dependent on the peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

"As is normal in relations between two old and close friends and neighbours, issues are bound to arise from time to time...

"I am confident that the firm foundation of our bilateral relationship will enable our two countries to continue to overcome any such issues in a constructive manner, by choosing positive solutions premised on mutual respect."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'President Tan pays tribute to strong bonds'. Print Edition | Subscribe