Singapore has benefited from being part of Commonwealth and will pay it forward: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the Chin Kang Huay Kuan 100th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre on April 1, 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the Chin Kang Huay Kuan 100th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre on April 1, 2018.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore has benefited from being part of the Commonwealth and will pay it forward by sharing its developmental experiences with fellow countries in the grouping, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee made the pledge ahead of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting (Chogm), which he will attend this week in London.

Writing in the Chogm 2018 Report, he said Singapore faced grave social and economic problems when it joined the Commonwealth in October 1965, a couple of months after gaining independence on Aug 9.

The regional situation was also unstable then, with the Vietnam War brewing and South-east Asian countries at odds with one another.

"The odds were against our survival, but we pulled through. We were deeply grateful to the friends who came to our help in times of need, many of whom were in the Commonwealth," Mr Lee wrote.

Singapore is glad it can now help other countries in the Commonwealth through technical assistance programmes, he added.

Mr Lee will be among the leaders of 53 member nations gathering for the Chogm Summit, hosted by London this year.

The meetings run from Thursday (April 19) to Friday.

But starting on Monday, a series of forums and other events will be held to kick off the Summit.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will attend the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States on Tuesday and the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Monday that the foreign ministers will discuss issues of concern to members states and review developments in the Commonwealth.

In his article, Mr Lee noted the similarities between Chogm and Asean, which Singapore chairs this year.

Singapore is working with fellow Asean members and partners on initiatives to strengthen resilience against such threats as terrorism, cybercrime and climate change, and to help Asean economies innovate and use technology, he said.

These aspirations dovetail with this year's Chogm themes of security, prosperity, fairness and sustainability, he added.

"The Commonwealth and Asean have much in common. Both share core values such as tolerance, respect and understanding. Both organisations seek to uplift the lives of their citizens through promoting good governance and sustainable practices," he said.

"Both uphold an open, rules-based multilateral system which allows every country to prosper. There is therefore much we can do together to create a better world for ourselves and future generations."

Mr Lee also touched on the topic of sustainable development, one of the key themes of this year's Chogm.

He said Singapore has always designed policies with long-term sustainability in mind and is committed to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It will undertake its first Voluntary National Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development this year.

Mr Lee said Singapore is sharing its approaches and expertise in this area with fellow Commonwealth countries through capacity building courses for their officials in such areas as disaster management, enhancing infrastructure for national development, and public sector management.

At a broader level, Singapore also works with UN agencies to develop courses on leadership, good governance as well as water-related issues and sustainable urbanisation.

"We hope this sharing of experiences and exchange of ideas will continue to benefit future generations in the Commonwealth," said Mr Lee.