Friday, 7 July 2017

Brunei and Singapore leaders celebrate 50th anniversary of currency agreement; Brunei marks Golden Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Sultan says pact's success a tribute to enduring friendship; commemorative $50 notes issued
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 6 Jul 2017

The bright yellow Simpur flower beloved in Brunei, and Singapore's national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim, will grace the face of special edition $50 notes that mark a milestone in the relationship between the two countries.

The set of two commemorative polymer notes - a Brunei $50 bill and a Singapore $50 one - was launched at the Istana yesterday by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is in town for a two-day state visit.

The leaders marked the golden jubilee of an agreement that allows both countries to accept the currency issued by the other.

PM Lee called the Currency Interchangeability Agreement a hallmark of the longstanding and unique ties between the two nations, while the Sultan said its success is a tribute to the countries' enduring friendship.

In the evening, President Tony Tan Keng Yam too spoke warmly of the deep ties between Brunei and Singapore.

At a state banquet hosted in honour of the Sultan and his wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, Dr Tan noted that as the smallest countries in ASEAN, both share a similar outlook. "Our two countries understand each other's priorities in an innate way that larger countries cannot... and have always readily assisted each other to overcome our common challenges," he said.

They work together well in ASEAN and other groups, and share mutual interests like free and open trade. And amid rapid global changes, the strong ties between Brunei and Singapore will remain a constant, said Dr Tan, as he highlighted their historically close defence ties and regular youth exchanges.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean is set to lead a delegation of Singapore's young leaders to Brunei later this year for the fifth Young Leaders' Programme. And 13 Sultan's Scholars, among Brunei's best and brightest, here on a study trip, were at the state banquet.

In his speech, Sultan Bolkiah noted the wide-ranging areas of cooperation between both countries, and identified the agribusiness industry as a potential sector for further collaboration.

He also expressed Brunei's support for Singapore when it assumes the ASEAN chairmanship next year.

Dr Tan said the currency pact, which went into effect in June 1967, is an important symbol of trust between Singapore and Brunei. It has stabilised the monetary systems of both countries, and facilitated the mutually beneficial flow of investment, people, goods and services.

He cited Singapore company, Apollo Aquaculture Group - which this year set up a joint venture to build Brunei's first vertical land- based aquaculture farm - as one of the pact's beneficiaries.

Sultan Bolkiah said the agreement remains relevant in facilitating trade and financial relations between Singapore and Brunei, amid changes in the global landscape.

"It is our duty to nurture our relationship in the years ahead. I am pleased to see our monetary authorities are exploring deeper collaboration to enhance the synergies between our financial systems."

He hoped the pact's 50th anniversary would provide further stability and growth, while reinforcing confidence in both nations' currencies.

The special bills, jointly designed by Mr Abdul Ajihis Haji Terawih from Brunei and Singapore artists Eng Siak Loy and Weng Ziyan, pay tribute to the ties between both countries. Besides the two flowers, the bills feature, for instance, military personnel from both nations.

PM Lee noted that since limited edition notes for the pact's 40th anniversary were issued 10 years ago, the bilateral flow of Brunei and Singapore dollars has doubled.

There will be more milestone anniversaries of the agreement to celebrate, he added, wondering: "What face value should the commemorative notes be the next time?"

"You don't often have a $60 bill, but that is an idea for our officials to think about," he said. "They have 10 years to solve this problem and that will help our relationship and friendship endure and continue to blossom for generations to come."

The Sultan began his state visit yesterday with a ceremonial welcome before he met President Tan.

Sultan Bolkiah also had a four-eyes meeting with PM Lee, where they both reaffirmed the special and close bilateral relationship and discussed regional developments.

They agreed to keep up regular exchanges, including strengthening ties between the next-generation leadership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Sultan Bolkiah and his wife were also hosted to lunch by PM Lee and Mrs Lee, before both leaders officiated at the opening of an exhibition at the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

How to get the special notes
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 6 Jul 2017

One million pieces of commemorative Brunei $50 notes and two million pieces of Singapore $50 notes can be bought at face value from tomorrow.

They will be available at the branches of nine retail banks in Singapore, including the three major local banks as well as the Bank of China and Maybank. Banks here, like those in Brunei, will distribute a set of the two notes, with a complimentary folder.

The maximum number a person is allowed to buy each time in Singapore is five sets, as well as 10 pieces of the Singapore $50 commemorative note.

Both the notes can be used in any cash transaction in Singapore.

Also available for purchase is an exclusive collection of five types of limited edition numismatic note sets.

For inquiries and orders, members of the public may contact The Singapore Mint or visit its website at

Those wishing to purchase sets that are oversubscribed will face balloting.

Online pre-orders must reach the Singapore Mint by next Wednesday and can be collected from July 18 at several locations, including Singapore Mint outlets in Suntec City and City Square Mall.


Jointly curated exhibition celebrates close friendship between both nations
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 6 Jul 2017

An eight-month exhibition celebrating the "deep-rooted friendship" between Brunei and Singapore begins today at the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

The exhibition, titled Abode of Peace & the Lion City: A Brunei-Singapore Exhibition, was officially opened yesterday afternoon by Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is in Singapore on a state visit, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The display is being held in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee of a currency interchangeability agreement between the two nations. Jointly curated by the Singapore Philatelic Museum and Brunei's Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the exhibition will run until the end of February next year.

For the first time in Asia, 33 items from Brunei's royal regalia are on display outside the country. These include items - such as vases, swords and shields - used during the 1968 coronation ceremony and 1992 silver jubilee ceremony of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Also on display are stamps and other philatelic materials, as well as 66 artefacts on loan from the Brunei Museums Department, dating back to AD960, including 19th century brass containers and blue porcelain ware from a shipwreck in Brunei.

Visitors will also get the chance to view 42 pieces of currency notes and coins, issued over the past 50 years, on loan from Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

This weekend, visitors to the museum will also get to enjoy cultural performances by musicians and dancers from the Brunei Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

"The royal regalia and other artefacts on display are treasures of Brunei, and we are proud to be able to share our culture with Singapore," said Mr Abdoh Damit, acting director of culture and the arts at the Brunei ministry.

Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, general manager of the Singapore Philatelic Museum, said that the exhibition will enable people in Brunei and Singapore "to gain a deeper appreciation of each other's history and culture, as well as longstanding political, social and economic ties".

A second part of the exhibition, focusing on Singapore's multiculturalism and efforts at urban greening, will run in Brunei from November to April next year.

Brunei Sultan visits SAF's Pasir Ris Camp
The Straits Times, 7 Jul 2017

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei visited the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Pasir Ris Camp yesterday, the final day of his two-day state visit.

He was hosted by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, while Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, who is also Second Minister for Transport, and Chief of Army Melvyn Ong were also present.

At Pasir Ris Camp, Sultan Bolkiah watched the SAF's counter-terrorism forces storm a building and witnessed a freefall demonstration by the Red Lions skydivers. He also fired training munitions on simulated terrorist targets and was taken on a tour of the army's Airborne-Trooper Training Facility. At the end of the visit, Sultan Bolkiah was presented with the SAF's Honorary Advanced Military Freefall Wings to commemorate the event.

The Sultan's visit to the SAF underscores the close and longstanding defence ties between Singapore and Brunei, a bilateral defence relationship which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, said the Ministry of Defence.

Sultan Bolkiah was also hosted to lunch yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean. It was attended by several other ministers.

On Wednesday, Sultan Bolkiah was hosted to a state banquet by President Tony Tan Keng Yam. The Sultan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also launched a set of commemorative $50 notes to mark the 50th anniversary of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement between the two countries.

In a statement yesterday wrapping up the Sultan's visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the trip has reaffirmed the close, substantive and enduring ties between Singapore and Brunei.

It added: "The bilateral relationship is built on the firm foundations of friendship and trust between Singaporean and Bruneian leaders over the years, and will continue to flourish as both sides work together to strengthen existing and new pillars of cooperation."

* Brunei marks Golden Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2017

Tens of thousands of Bruneians thronged the streets of the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, yesterday to catch a glimpse of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in a royal procession which was the highlight of the ruler's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

In a ceremony marked by pomp and pageantry, the 71-year-old Sultan and his wife rode in a gilded chariot pulled by 50 members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces clad in traditional black and gold woven cloth. A military band, traditional instruments and Malay singers were also part of the procession.

Sultan Bolkiah, who ascended the throne on Oct 5, 1967, after his father, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, abdicated, is the 29th ruler in a monarchy spanning 654 years. The second-longest-reigning monarch in the world after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, he has led Brunei to independence and transformed it into one of South-east Asia's most developed countries.

Many regional heads of state and government, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as well as the rulers of Malaysian states, are in Bandar Seri Begawan to attend the royal celebrations.

PM Lee meets Singaporeans living in Brunei
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Bandar Seri Begawan, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2017

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.

PM Lee visits SAF troops training in Brunei jungle
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Bandar Seri Begawan, The Straits Times, 7 Oct 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday visited SAF soldiers undergoing jungle and survival training in Temburong, and said he was glad to see them in good spirits.

PM Lee, who is in Brunei for Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Golden Jubilee celebrations, also had an audience with the Sultan and attended a royal banquet with Mrs Lee.

In the morning, PM Lee spent an hour observing and meeting soldiers from the 6th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment.

A former brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces, he commended the soldiers for their professionalism and commitment, and stressed the importance of training in a realistic and safe environment.

Singapore and Brunei share a close, longstanding defence relationship. The SAF conducts regular training in Brunei, and there are frequent bilateral exercises and visits.

Brunei offers a unique environment for training, PM Lee noted. "They learn about the jungle, they also toughen themselves up. They learn about themselves. That is something very valuable," he said.

Much attention is paid to safety, he said, noting that officers made sure soldiers are prepared for jungle training. "The system is working well," said PM Lee, who was accompanied by Chief of Army Melvyn Ong.

Mr Lee noted that the soldiers take care of the training areas - they have cartridge pouches to store empty cartridges after firing so that blanks are not scattered all over the jungle. "We do what we can to make sure it is kept in good condition, not just for future trainees, but to keep the jungle and natural environment as it is."

He added that it was important that soldiers not inconvenience or cause problems to their hosts.

"We are very good friends with Brunei," he said, adding that he meets Sultan Bolkiah quite often.

Ministers meet regularly too. Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean will lead a group of young office-holders to Brunei for the annual Young Leaders' Programme next month. "You build up these relations at many levels so that there is trust and warmth in the relationship that helps it to be able to continue," said PM Lee.

Leaders, royals gather for Golden Jubilee banquet in Brunei
PM Lee and other dignitaries from region and beyond join Sultan in marking key occasion
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Bandar Seri Begawan, The Straits Times, 7 Oct 2017

Camaraderie and good cheer were in the air at the sprawling Istana Nurul Iman last night, as dignitaries from near and far attended a royal banquet to join Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of his accession to the throne.

At the head of the royal banquet hall, replete with chandeliers and golden trimming, sat the Sultan at a 44-seat table - surrounded by fellow leaders and royals from the region and farther afield.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had an audience with Sultan Bolkiah earlier in the day, was there with Mrs Lee.

They were flanked by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and United Arab Emirates Minister of State Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad.

During his meeting with Sultan Bolkiah in the afternoon, Mr Lee conveyed Singapore's congratulations to the Sultan on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Delighted to extend my warmest congratulations to the Sultan on the Golden Jubilee of his reign, which has brought peace and prosperity to the people of Brunei," Mr Lee said in a Facebook post. "We reaffirmed our warm and strong bilateral relationship, and the progress in our bilateral cooperation."

The Prime Minister noted in his post that both leaders had just met in July, when Sultan Bolkiah visited Singapore and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement. The pact allows Brunei currency to be used in Singapore and vice versa.

Both leaders also looked forward to further strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation, Singapore's Foreign Ministry added.

At last night's banquet, representatives from Asean countries turned up in full force in black tie or ceremonial uniform, among them Malaysia's King, Sultan Muhammad V, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Seated beside the Sultan was his wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha. They were flanked by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The star-studded guest list included Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Middle Eastern royalty and Britain's Prince Edward.

At the Sultan's table, guests dined on a spread that included a terrine of lobster, Alaskan crab, surf clam, and cream of beetroot and carrot soup. There was lobster makhanwala, lamb chanterelle, venison rendang, chicken korma, snapper in egg yolk wrap, soft-shell crab sambal, and nasi minyak or ghee rice with herbs.

The banquet, hosted by Sultan Bolkiah and his wife, was attended by thousands of his citizens as well, among them civil servants and uniformed personnel, who sat in the nearby dining hall and came dressed in white - as is the custom for night-time events involving the Sultan.

As the night drew to a close, fireworks lit up the sky over the palace.

Sultan Bolkiah was just 21 when he became his country's 29th sultan, and has in the five decades since led Brunei to independence and transformed it into one of South-east Asia's most developed countries. He is now the world's second-longest reigning monarch, after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who became queen in 1952 and celebrated 65 years on the throne in February this year.

Mr Lee leaves for Singapore this morning.

Brunei Darussalam and Singapore celebrate 50th Anniversary of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement
Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Brunei Darussalam and Singapore

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