President Tan begins six-day state visit to New Zealand

Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

President Tony Tan Keng Yam arrives in New Zealand for a six-day state visit that starts today in its capital Wellington.

Dr Tan's visit commemorates the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and New Zealand, and reaffirms their warm and broad-based relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday.

The trip, made at the invitation of New Zealand Governor-General Jerry Mateparae, is the latest in a series of visits between leaders of the two countries.

In May, Mr K. Shanmugam visited New Zealand in his previous capacity as foreign minister.

Sir Jerry, who is New Zealand's head of state, was in Singapore for a three-day state visit in July, while Prime Minister John Key attended the National Day Parade in August.

In Wellington, President Tan will attend a welcome ceremony at Government House, the Governor-General's official residence.

He will then call on Sir Jerry, who will later host him to a state banquet at Government House.

The President will also meet New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English, who is the Acting Prime Minister while Mr Key is away on official business.

Dr Tan will visit the Pukeahu national war memorial park and lay a ceremonial wreath there in honour of New Zealand soldiers who died in military conflicts in service to their country.

New Zealand troops were among the forces that defended Singapore and Malaya during World War II.

After Wellington, Dr Tan will head south to Christchurch, the country's second-largest city, parts of which are still being rebuilt after an earthquake in 2011.

He will be hosted to lunch by the city's mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Dr Tan will lay a wreath at the former Canterbury Television headquarters, where 115 people died when the building collapsed in the 2011 earthquake.

He will also be briefed by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on the city's rebuilding and recovery efforts, to which Singapore contributed.

Singapore sent a 55-member search and rescue team from

the Singapore Civil Defence Force and 116 soldiers to help in Christchurch's rescue efforts in 2011.

Singaporean pilots and ground crew also evacuated more than 160 civilians, and airlifted nearly 50 tonnes of relief aid.

While in Christchurch, Dr Tan will meet the Singapore community at a reception. There are 5,400 Singapore-born residents in New Zealand.

The President is accompanied by his wife Mary, as well as Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, and MPs Vikram Nair and Sun Xueling.

While he is away, Mr J.Y. Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, will be the Acting President.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'President Tan begins six-day state visit to New Zealand'. Print Edition | Subscribe