PM Lee congratulates Chris Hipkins, new prime minister of New Zealand

New Zealand's new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins at the swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Wellington on Jan 25. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has congratulated Mr Chris Hipkins on his appointment as the new prime minister of New Zealand.

In a letter on Wednesday, PM Lee noted the “deep and longstanding friendship” between Singapore and New Zealand.

“As small and open economies, we share similar views on many issues, such as the importance of free trade and international law,” PM Lee wrote, adding that the two countries also have multi-faceted cooperation in areas such as trade, defence, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges and climate change.

“Our two countries also supported each other strongly during the Covid-19 pandemic, including ensuring that supply chains remain connected and regularly exchanging notes on our experiences,” PM Lee said.

“I look forward to working with you to strengthen our excellent bilateral relations, and wish you and your government every success,” he added.

Mr Hipkins, 44, was New Zealand’s former Covid-19 response minister.

He was sworn in as prime minister in a formal ceremony on Wednesday, succeeding Ms Jacinda Ardern, 42, who announced her resignation last week, saying she had “no more in the tank” to lead the country.

PM Lee said he was sorry to learn that Ms Ardern had decided to step down, although he fully understood her reasons for doing so.

“Like many, I was moved watching your personal and sincere statement announcing your decision. I hope that after you have handed over your duties, you will be able to recharge your tank and continue contributing to public life in other ways,” PM Lee wrote.

PM Lee also complimented Ms Ardern for steering her country with “kindness, compassion and strength through multiple crises, including the Christchurch attacks, White Island eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“You have also been an inspiration especially to women and girls, not just in New Zealand, but across the world. You have demonstrated that empathy and courage can go hand-in-hand in political leadership,” he said, adding that relations between the two countries have strengthened during her term as the premier.

“You have been a very good friend of Singapore. Please know that you and your family are always welcome in Singapore. I wish you, Clarke and Neve all the best,” PM Lee said.

Ms Ardern’s fiance is television presenter Clarke Gayford. They have a four-year-old daughter, Neve.

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