Straits Times: Singapore, UK share rich, enduring ties: President

She traces a common history back to Raffles, who she credits for Republic's global outlook

Joanna Seow

Singapore and the United Kingdom enjoy a natural affinity owing to a common history, as well as share a "rich and enduring relationship", President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

The shared history dates back to 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles founded a trading port here, setting the stage for the development of modern Singapore, she added.

He also planted a global outlook into Singapore's DNA, she said, highlighting the economic and research ties between the two countries.

The UK is Singapore's fifth-largest European trading partner and sixth-largest investor globally.

More than 4,000 British companies are in Singapore, including Rolls-Royce, GlaxoSmithKline and Dyson, all of which have contributed significantly to innovation here, she noted.

President Halimah was speaking at an official dinner she and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee hosted at the Istana for heir apparent to the British throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

She noted that Raffles' influence can be seen in Singapore's language, form of governance and legal systems, as well as in architectural details of buildings, road names and schools. For instance, the vision for the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the first Unesco World Heritage Site here, came from Raffles himself, who was a keen naturalist.

"These connections offer us a glimpse of a relationship that spans two centuries... I am confident Singapore-UK ties will continue to flourish," President Halimah said before raising a toast to Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Charles, in toasting the President and people of Singapore, also cited the close bilateral ties.

He recounted his first official visit here in 1979. He thought he would have a small lunch with founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Instead, it included "over 20 courses of Chinese food, together with a large proportion of the Cabinet", he said with a laugh.

"By the end of the lunch, I was feeling thoroughly intellectually challenged, and had learnt a lot from one of the most eminent leaders of the Commonwealth."

The Prince stressed that partnership is key to addressing the challenges the world faces today, from climate change to terrorism, and also to fuel the economy to deliver better futures for all.

"At the core of our relationship, Madam President, is our shared belief that, by working together, one plus one can equal so much more than two," he said.

PARTNERSHIP IS KEY

At the core of our relationship, Madam President, is our shared belief that, by working together, one plus one can equal so much more than two.

PRINCE CHARLES, at the official dinner President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee hosted at the Istana for the heir apparent and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Ahead of the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London next year, the Prince and his wife began their Commonwealth tour on Monday in Singapore, where the first such meeting was held 36 years ago.

They will also visit Malaysia and India.

Earlier in the day, the royal couplereceived a ceremonial welcome at the Istana and called on Madam Halimah and her husband.

They also met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana.

Prince Charles discussed the importance of interfaith harmony with the President, and with PM Lee, the discussion centred on regional and climate change issues, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Prince Charles also laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of those who died fighting in the two world wars.

He also attended a dialogue on interfaith issues with more than 30 religious leaders and young people at the Harmony Centre in Bishan.

Sikh Advisory Board chairman Jarmal Singh, 69, told The Straits Times that the Prince was interested in Singapore's Inter-Religious Organisation as Britain does not have an overarching body that brings together all religious groups.

"He said what we have here is something he will take back with him," Mr Singh said.