PM sends condolences, hails S'pore's firm friend

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote to Mrs Charlene Lugar yesterday to offer his condolences on the passing of her husband, former United States senator Richard Lugar.

In his letter, PM Lee said he was deeply saddened to learn of Mr Lugar's death. A leading US voice on foreign policy for decades and a close friend of Singapore, Mr Lugar died from chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder. He was 87.

"Senator Lugar was a thoughtful, passionate and distinguished flag-bearer of America. He was one of the most influential voices in the Republican Party on foreign policy, well-respected on both sides of the aisle," said PM Lee.

"He was a firm friend of Singapore and convinced of the importance of US engagement of Asia. His innumerable contributions, including his tireless efforts to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons, have made the world a safer place today."

PM Lee said he met Mr Lugar on many occasions over the years, and felt fortunate to have benefited from his wisdom and experience.

Their first meeting was in 1989, when the soft-spoken Republican politician visited Singapore. Mr Lugar was hosted to dinner by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

"The leases on the US bases at Clark Airbase and Subic Bay were expiring, and the issue of the US security presence in the region was in the air," recounted PM Lee.

THOUGHTFUL, PASSIONATE

Senator Lugar was a thoughtful, passionate and distinguished flag-bearer of America. 

MR LEE HSIEN LOONG

"It was on that occasion that Senator Lugar and Mr Lee first discussed the possibility of Singapore hosting visits by US ships and aircraft, which led to the 1990 memorandum of understanding regarding United States use of facilities in Singapore and later, the 2005 strategic framework agreement which recognised Singapore as a major security cooperation partner of the US."

Subsequently, over the years, PM Lee said he would make it a point to call on Mr Lugar every time he was in Washington, noting that the last time he did so was in 2010.

"It was always enlightening to hear his perspectives and insights, and to sense his deep belief in America's global role," he said.

"I was saddened to read in 2012 that he had been defeated in the Republican primary. It was a loss of a good friend of Singapore in the Senate, and a sign of the changing political climate in the US," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'PM sends condolences, hails S'pore's firm friend'. Print Edition | Subscribe