Thursday, 29 October 2015

President Tony Tan's State Visit to New Zealand, 25 to 30 October 2015

President Tan revisits role of New Zealand in WWI
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

On the first day of his state visit to New Zealand yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam took in a key part of the country's history - its role in World War I.

Shortly after arriving in the capital city of Wellington, Dr Tan visited a newly opened exhibition that depicts New Zealand's participation in the war.

His tour of The Great War Exhibition took him through the experiences of some of the 100,000 soldiers from New Zealand who fought in the war from 1914 to 1918, and the battles they fought. More than 18,000 of them died.

The exhibition is housed in the country's first national museum, the historic Dominion Museum building in downtown Wellington.

Outside, the city centre's streets were quiet as it was New Zealand's Labour Day public holiday, but inside the exhibition, visitors heard nothing but the sound of soldiers' marching songs, gunfire and planes.

Lending the exhibition a sense of realism were life-size figures of soldiers, authentic wartime weapons such as hand grenades and a tank, and cobblestoned paths and rocky terrain underfoot. It was created to commemorate the centenary of World War I by New Zealand's Sir Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord Of The Rings films.

Dr Tan also toured a companion exhibition on New Zealand's part in the invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey.

A central part of the exhibition focused on the amphibious assault a hundred years ago on April 25, 1915, when thousands of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, fighting alongside British and other allied soldiers, stormed the Gallipoli beaches under heavy fire.

The Gallipoli campaign is regarded as having stirred a sense of national identity in New Zealand.

Earlier yesterday, Dr Tan was received by New Zealand Cabinet Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation, Civil Defence and Youth Nikki Kaye when he arrived at Auckland International Airport.

The President then took a domestic flight to Wellington, where he will receive an official welcome today and call on the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, who will host a state dinner for him. Dr Tan will also meet Acting Prime Minister Bill English.

Arrived in New Zealand today. My delegation and I visited the Great War Exhibition at Dominion Museum, which...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Monday, October 26, 2015

My wife and I and the Singapore delegation were given a warm welcome at the Government House by Sir Jerry Mateparae, the...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Monday, October 26, 2015

Leaders of Singapore, NZ highlight close ties
Depth of friendship shown during Mr Lee's funeral, Christchurch quake: President Tan
By Charissa Yong, In Wellington, New Zealand, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2015

Though founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was not its leader, New Zealand flew its flags on public buildings at half-mast on the day of his funeral in March, in a show of respect and solidarity with Singapore.

Back in 2011, when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked Christ-church, Singapore swiftly pitched in to help in the city's rescue efforts.

These acts of supporting each other through times of national grief show the depth of friendship between the two countries, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said yesterday - the second day of his state visit to New Zealand. He was speaking at a state banquet held in his honour by New Zealand Governor-General Jerry Mateparae.

Like Sir Jerry, Dr Tan highlighted the close links between the two countries in defence, trade and people-to-people ties, as well as at regional and international forums.

Both leaders, in their speeches, also underlined their belief in the benefits of trade liberalisation.

Singapore's first bilateral free trade agreement, for instance, was signed with New Zealand in 2000.

The two nations were also part of the 2006 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, the precursor to the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact concluded this month.

"As two of the four members of the original agreement that evolved into the TPP, we can be especially proud of the accomplishment," said Sir Jerry.

Both nations also believe in the importance of international diplomacy, he said, adding that Singapore is at the forefront of New Zealand's ties with Asean, and both work together at the United Nations. They work closely as well to achieve greater regional economic integration, he added.

Dr Tan similarly said Singapore values New Zealand's 40 years of work with Asean. "Singapore looks forward to the elevation of this partnership to the strategic level."

The two countries established diplomatic relations 50 years ago.

WELCOME TO WELLINGTON: Dr Tony Tan gets a traditional Maori welcome - the Haka dance - during his visit to the Governor House in New Zealand.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dr Tan noted that New Zealand has hosted the Singapore Armed Forces' annual exercises in Waiouru since 1997 and Singapore, he said, appreciates it.

Sir Jerry, noting that "defence cooperation has been a cornerstone of our relationship", called Singapore his country's closest defence partner in Asia. They are members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements and partner each other in missions in Timor Leste and Afghanistan.

Singapore and New Zealand also have a healthy and complementary trade relationship, said both leaders, adding that their people are close to each other as well.

Referring to New Zealand's national rugby team, Dr Tan said: "I am sure that many Singaporeans will join their New Zealand friends to cheer on the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup finals."

It takes place in London on Saturday.

Sir Jerry also highlighted areas, including science, innovation, trade and tourism, that both can further cooperate in.

Dr Tan noted that they have expanded their cooperation in research and development and biomedical sciences. "I believe small nations like Singapore and New Zealand can overcome their constraints through international collaboration," he said.

The banquet capped a busy day of official meetings and visits by President Tan.

In the morning, he received a traditional Maori greeting in an official welcome ceremony at Government House, where he also called on Sir Jerry. He then laid a ceremonial wreath at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

He also met Acting Prime Minister Bill English before touring Weta Workshop props studio, which produced the movie magic of the Lord Of The Rings franchise.

Today, Dr Tan goes to Christ-church to see its post-earthquake rebuilding efforts.

President Tan praises efforts to rebuild Christchurch
By Charissa Yong, In Christchurch, New Zealand, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2015

Devastated in large parts by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake four years ago, the city of Christchurch is slowly getting back on its feet.

Yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam arrived in the city amid rain to learn about its ongoing rebuilding works.

He had flown in from Wellington for this second leg of his state visit to New Zealand to see the city that Singapore helped in the immediate rescue efforts.

As rain fell, he laid a wreath at the former Canterbury Television building, where 115 people died in the earthquake.

I arrived in Christchurch to continue the second part of my State Visit. SAF and SCDF officers had provided relief and...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The site has been cleared and is one of many empty lots in the city centre, quiet even in the day. Several damaged buildings still stand vacant. Across the street, 185 empty white chairs are laid out on a green lawn in a poignant art installation, one for each quake victim.

When the earthquake struck Christchurch unexpectedly in 2011, Singapore promptly sent a 55-member search-and-rescue team and 116 soldiers to the city of 380,000 people.

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

Dr Tan and his delegation were shown the rebuilding projects around the city centre by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. These included new commercial buildings being constructed and a newly completed bus interchange.

Earlier, at a lunch hosted by mayor Lianne Dalziel, the delegation learnt about the city's rebuilding efforts and discussed developments in Singapore and Christchurch.

Dr Tan wrote on Facebook that he was heartened by the resilience shown by the people of Christchurch in the rebuilding process. "They are a great example of a community that rallies together in difficult times," he said.

Trade and investment between Singapore and New Zealand have been growing since the Agreement between New Zealand and...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Singaporeans in NZ urged to retain ties to home
They are important part of wider Singapore community, says President Tony Tan
By Charissa Yong, In Christchurch, New Zealand, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

When an earthquake struck Christchurch city in 2011, Ms Chrislynn Soong combined her Singaporean love of food with her desire to help the community around her.

The lawyer, who moved to New Zealand in 2007 as a student, rallied more than a hundred friends and strangers online to bake snacks and deliver them to volunteers shovelling sewage water out of shattered houses and streets.

"In times of disaster, that's when everyone comes together. It's cool to be accepted as a Singaporean here and to be able to contribute to this community we live in," Ms Soong, 25, said yesterday.

Her actions speak of the strong ties between the people of New Zealand and Singapore, ties acknowledged by President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday even as he urged the Singapore community there to keep in touch with home.

He described the community as a small but active one at a reception during his state visit to the country.

It was attended by about 50 people, mostly Singapore citizens and New Zealanders born in Singapore. There are about 5,400 Singapore-born New Zealanders.

Dr Tan said: "Some of you have been in New Zealand for many years, but continue to retain strong links with Singapore and your fellow Singaporeans in New Zealand."

He cited various Singapore clubs and associations in New Zealand that have organised many events which reflect Singapore's cultural heritage. These include gatherings to celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and National Day.

One coveted prize at a recent National Day dinner was a Singapore Airlines ticket back to Singapore, noted Dr Tan. "It shows your hearts and stomachs are still rooted to Singapore," he added, to laughter.

"I encourage you to continue keeping up your ties to Singapore... You are an important part of the wider Singapore community," he said.

Ms Sitti Curtis, 50, president of the Singapore Club Christchurch, agrees. Though she became a New Zealand citizen in 1990, she attends as many Singaporean community events as possible because she considers having been Singaporean as part of her identity.

Earlier in the day, Dr Tan had a first-hand look at New Zealand's industries, with visits to a winery and a jet boat manufacturer which supplies the Singapore Police Coast Guard with some patrol boats.

He noted on Facebook that trade and investment between Singapore and New Zealand have grown since their free trade agreement took effect in 2001.

"Trade between our countries would benefit further from the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership," he added, referring to the pact that will liberalise trade across the Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore, NZ can work together to make an impact: President Tan
By Charissa Yong, In Christchurch, New Zealand, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2015

Singapore and New Zealand are small countries but when they work together, they "can punch well above our weight and make a strategic impact on the rest of the world", President Tony Tan Keng Yam said yesterday.

One such instance he cited is the far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pact to expand free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

It grew out of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, a trade pact initiated and launched by four nations that included New Zealand and Singapore, he noted.

The two countries can achieve such a working relationship because of their shared history and strong ties in the areas of economics, diplomacy and defence as well as between their people, Dr Tan told Singapore journalists in an interview wrapping up his week-long state visit to New Zealand.

They share key interests and traits as well, he said. Both are open economies that depend on world trade, and have small populations: New Zealand has 4.5 million people and Singapore, about 5.4 million.

New Zealand is also a trusted friend and steadfast partner, he said, calling for the relationship to be strengthened further to not just advance bilateral interests but to create initiatives like the TPP that "benefit the whole world".

He also encouraged more Singapore companies to seek business opportunities in New Zealand, "in hotels, in resorts, in industry".

Reflecting on his visit to the cities of Wellington and Christchurch, Dr Tan was particularly struck by how the creative industry in New Zealand had blossomed following the Lord Of The Rings movies and the two individuals behind the films: director Peter Jackson and prop master Richard Taylor.

Singapore, in developing its creative industry, can learn from New Zealand, which despite its small population has produced world- class creative individuals, he said.

"The films changed the way people look at animation and how stories are told for a worldwide audience. We can't have Lord Of The Rings in Singapore, but we can have 'Lord of something else'," he said.

"It's the power of imagination and the creativity of individuals which make all of this possible," he added.

The pace at which Christchurch is rebuilding large parts of the city devastated by a 2011 earthquake also made an impression on Dr Tan.

It has taken a long-term perspective in going beyond just repairing buildings to rejuvenating the city, with an eye on turning Christchurch into an economic hub and an arts centre, he said.

The community was asked to come up with new ideas, he noted, drawing parallels to Singaporeans doing likewise for the SG50 celebrations.

"I think it's the right way to go. Not to hurry, but to take the time to think through all of the issues, and to engage the community as well to come up with new ideas," he said.

Singapore, similarly, has to continue to reinvent itself to stay successful, he said, and be "prepared to look at things from a fresh perspective".

"I think the Government and the people are well prepared to do that."

New Zealanders' sense of community is also worth emulating.

Said Dr Tan: "New Zealanders look at themselves first to see what they can do to solve their own problems."

They also look out for one another, he said.

Singapore can learn from them, he said, even as he noted that more Singaporeans are volunteering.

"People are now coming forth to help themselves and to help others, rather than relying on the Government to do everything.

"We should encourage that," he said.

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