SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (April 30) conveyed their best wishes to Japanese Emperor Akihito on his abdication from the throne.
"On behalf of the people of Singapore, I would like to convey my deep respect and appreciation to Your Majesty as you relinquish your position as Emperor of Japan today," Madam Halimah wrote in a letter to Emperor Akihito.
The Emperor leaves behind an indelible legacy for Japan, she said in a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Your tireless and selfless efforts in working for the people of Japan have become synonymous with the peace and stability of the Heisei period," said Madam Halimah, referring to the imperial era under the monarch's reign, which comes to an end on Tuesday.
She said this was evidenced by the travels of Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, to all 47 prefectures of Japan over the past 30 years, in particular disaster areas, to reach out to and provide comfort to those affected.
"The strength and stoicism of the Japanese people in overcoming adversity have left deep impressions all over the world in this regard. Your Majesty will be remembered as a well-respected monarch who has displayed compassion, dedication to peace, and wholehearted devotion to your country and people," she said.
Madam Halimah also noted the Emperor's role in promoting Singapore-Japan ties.
"I would also like to place on record my deep appreciation for Your Majesty's strong support of the friendship between Singapore and Japan over the past half century," she said.
She said that Singapore-Japan relations have developed dynamically, underpinned by regular political exchanges, robust economic links and deepening people-to-people ties.
She added that many in Singapore fondly recall the first visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Singapore as Crown Prince and Princess in 1970.
"We were honoured to welcome Your Majesties again in 1981 and 2006, the latter on a State Visit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries," said Madam Halimah.
She also pointed to the Emperor and Empress hosting Singapore's first state visit to Japan by then President S R Nathan in 2009, as well as then President Tony Tan's state visit on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Japan relations in 2016, as evidence of the strong relationship.
"Just like the pair of King Sago Palms Your Majesties planted in the Japanese Garden in Singapore in 1970, the enduring friendship between Singapore and Japan continues to stand firm and strong today," said Madam Halimah, adding that she wishes Emperor Akihito and his wife continued good health and happiness.
In his letter to Emperor Akihito, PM Lee congratulated the monarch on more than 30 years of wise reign, on behalf of the Government of Singapore, and extended his best wishes.
"The Heisei period will be remembered as an era of peace and stability for Japan. Japan dealt with novel economic situations, and adapted to a changing strategic and security environment," said PM Lee.
He added: "Your Majesty's compassion, devotion to your people, and unwavering commitment to peace inspired and guided the Japanese nation in responding to these challenges. The love and respect of your people towards their sovereign reflect this."
PM Lee said that the Emperor can be proud of Japan's place in the world and the admiration it commands from people everywhere, highlighting that Singapore-Japan relations have grown steadily over the years.
"The pair of King Sago Palms planted at the Japanese Garden in Singapore, during Your Majesties' first visit as Crown Prince and Princess in 1970, are still flourishing today, and so too the friendship between our countries and peoples," said PM Lee.
PM Lee said that he and Mrs Lee warmly recall their interactions with the Emperor and his wife, including during the royals' state visit to Singapore in 2006, as well as two occasions when they hosted PM Lee and Mrs Lee to lunch during their visits to Tokyo in March 2007 and September 2016.
"We wish Your Majesties continued good health, happiness, and a well-deserved rest," said PM Lee.