Singapore's Senior Minister brings Raya tidings on second visit

BRUNEI - For the second year in a row, Singapore's Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli and spouse have flown into the Sultanate to convey festive greetings of the Island-state's leaders to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, members of the Royal Family and Masagos' counterparts.

Masagos is accompanied by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development and Defence Dr Maliki Osman, and spouse.

The senior minister and his spouse flew in on Saturday, and began their four-day visit by attending the Istana Nurul Iman Open House yesterday morning.

After personally conveying his wishes to the monarch, Masagos and his entourage proceeded to the home of the Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Othman.

Also present at the home affairs minister's residence were Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Halbi Hj Mohd Yusof and his spouse, Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries at the ministry and their spouses, as well as senior officials at the ministry.

According to a press statement by the Singapore High Commission in Brunei, it said the visit reflects the warm friendship and strong ties between the Island-state and Brunei.

At YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin's residence, Masagos told journalists during his first visit last year, he was taken aback by His Majesty's commitment and dedication to his people.

"His Majesty would stand for many hours to meet all the rakyat over three days, and it is really amazing. However, on a more personal level, I am taken also by the warmth and the merriment when Bruneians celebrate the Hari Raya," he said.

The senior minister pointed out that it was "much more merrier" here in Brunei, and that celebrating the festive occasion was different from that in Singapore.

"Therefore this year, without effort, I was so happy that the ambassador arranged for this visit to reoccur again," he said.

This time around, the senior minister brought along the senior parliamentary secretary to make the visit "more meaningful" than last year.

"InsyaAllah over the years, we will have more office holders coming down to call on the Sultan, and to continue to build the bridges between the peoples of Singapore and Brunei, as well as the governments of Brunei and Singapore," he said.

Beyond Brunei's Chair of the ASEAN Summit this year, Masagos said the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Brunei are excellent.

"We cooperate in so many fields across so many areas, both at the government level as well as the people-to-people exchange, and we must continue this, especially among the young of both countries," he said.

In two weeks time, the senior minister said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister will be leading a group of younger leaders from Singapore, to come and interact with leaders of Brunei. This is to underscore the important relationship shared between the two countries, he said.

In concluding the interview, Masagos wished the people of Brunei a "Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri" on behalf of the people and government of Singapore.

Throughout the day, Masagos also visited the residences' of other Bruneian ministers.

Today, he will welcome Bruneian leaders, officials and businessmen to an Open House, organised by the Singapore High Commission in conjunction with Singapore's National Day.

He will also meet with the Singaporean community in Brunei at a separate National Day get-together today.

Later on in the day the Singapore Minister also visited the residence of the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah.