PM Lee meets Singaporeans living in Brunei

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee in a group photo taken during their meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan with Singaporeans yesterday. They are there for Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Golden Jubilee celebration.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee in a group photo taken during their meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan with Singaporeans yesterday. They are there for Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Golden Jubilee celebration.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Undergraduate Syazana Hussain, 24, was up at dawn yesterday to join her friends in watching the royal procession celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's accession to the throne.

In the afternoon, she joined about 250 Singaporeans living in Brunei at a reception with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee, who arrived here yesterday with Mrs Lee and will stay till tomorrow for the celebration, mingled with the Singaporeans at the Royal Brunei Polo and Riding Club, where Singapore favourites such as rojak and chicken satay were served.

"I was very touched to find out the Prime Minister was taking the time to meet us," said Ms Syazana, who took her first wefie with Mr Lee.

"Every time some of our leaders from Singapore come here, it makes me feel at home. It's like they bring Singapore to us," said the student at Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University, who is on a scholarship from the Brunei government.

In a chandelier-lit room garlanded with mini Singapore flags, Mr Lee spoke warmly of the longstanding ties between Brunei and Singapore. "We have many exchanges because it's a very dangerous, big world. And in a big world, small countries need to be friends with one another," he said.

The relationship between Brunei and Singapore dates back to the friendship of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, the late father of the current Sultan, who knew each other before Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia in 1963. Brunei chose not to join Malaysia, and the short-lived merger between Singapore and Malaysia ended in 1965.

Mr Lee said that when his father and the late Sultan met after Separation, they knew they had made different choices but "had eventually come to the same conclusion".

Since then, Singapore and Brunei have collaborated in a wide range of areas. Among them, both countries accept each other's currency, and the Singapore Armed Forces trains in Temburong, noted Mr Lee, who will visit soldiers today. He will also have an audience with the Sultan and attend a royal banquet today.

He also gave guests at the reception an update on the Singapore economy, noting that it should make 2.5 per cent growth and is in the midst of restructuring.

"It takes effort. So there are people who are a bit concerned about jobs, costs of living, what will the future be, and I think that we're on the right track and we're heading in the right direction," he said. "And part of the right direction is we have people who are overseas, who are working, who are in the region, who have a network, and who help Singapore to know what's happening in the world and to fit in the world and be friends with the countries around us."

One such overseas Singaporean is cardiologist Patrick Ang, 51, who moved to Brunei in 2003. Fifteen years on, two of his three children were born here and he heads the Singapore Association, which organises get-togethers and celebrations like during the Mid-Autumn Festival. "It's essential we form a community to get together, and retain our Singaporean culture," said Dr Ang.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-JSG4nEs6c&feature=youtu.be
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'PM Lee meets Singaporeans living in Brunei'. Print Edition | Subscribe