TEMBURONG - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong trekked through the jungles of Temburong on Friday (Oct 6) morning, to meet Singapore Armed Forces soldiers undergoing jungle and survival training.
He had travelled from the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan to Temburong - Brunei's easternmost district.
Dressed in matching red polo T-shirts, Mr and Mrs Lee spent an hour observing soldiers from the 6th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment as they were put through their paces.
Mr Lee, a former brigadier-general in the SAF, commended the soldiers for their commitment and stressed the importance of training in a realistic but safe environment.
He told reporters the soldiers he met were in good spirits.
"They come here, they learn about the jungle. They also toughen themselves up. They learn about themselves. That's something very valuable," he said.
Much attention is paid to safety, he added, noting that he spoke to officers on how they ensure their soldiers are prepared and fit enough for jungle training. Doctors are present if needed.
"I think that the system is working well," said Mr Lee, who was accompanied by Chief of Army Melvyn Ong and other senior SAF officers.
Brunei offers a unique jungle environment that cannot be duplicated in Singapore, he added.
On taking care of the training grounds, Mr Lee pointed out that each soldier's rifle is outfitted with cartridge pouches to store empty cartridges after firing so that the blanks are not scattered all over the jungle.
"We do what we can to make sure that it is kept in good condition, not just for future trainees but also to keep the jungle and natural environment as it is," he said.
Asked about the sustainability of such training in Brunei, he said this depends on Singapore's relationship with Brunei.
"We are very good friends with Brunei," he said, adding that he meets Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah quite often and ministers from both countries have regular exchanges.
For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will lead a group of young Singapore political office-holders to Brunei for the annual Young Leaders' Programme next month.
"You build up these relations at many levels so that there's trust and warmth in the relationship that helps it to be able to continue," said Mr Lee.
He also highlighted the importance of soldiers behaving properly, to not inconvenience or cause any problems to their hosts. They are briefed very carefully when they arrive in Brunei, he added.
In a statement on Friday, the Defence Ministry said defence ties between Singapore and Brunei are close and longstanding.
In addition to regular training conducted by the SAF in Brunei, both militaries interact through frequent bilateral exercises, professional exchanges, visits and courses.
"These exchanges have enhanced the professionalism and strengthened the ties between the two armed forces," it said.
On Friday evening, Mr Lee will attend a royal banquet at the grand Istana Nurul Iman to celebrate the golden jubilee of Sultan Bolkiah.