President Tan on first state visit to Britain by a Singapore leader

From left : Mohamad Maliki Osman (in white shirt), Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development, Mrs Mary Tan, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Brigadier General Perry Lim (partially hidden behind the President), Chairman of National Day Parade (NDP) 2013 committee and Colonel Dinesh Vasu Dash.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam arrived in Londonon Monday, in the first state visit to Britain by a Singapore head of state. The six-day visit, which officially began on Tuesday, includes an address to the British Parliament, and is expected to further boost strong bilateral relations.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday that the visit will "showcase our longstanding relations with the United Kingdom ahead of the 50th anniversary of UK-Singapore relations in 2015".

Political exchanges between both countries are frequent, and there has been a stream of bilateral visits this year, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong just in London in March. Britain receives only two state visits each year, and Dr Tan's is the second this year. Irish President Michael Higgins had been hosted in April.

Dr Tan's visit starts off with a ceremonial welcome by Queen Elizabeth II at the famous Horse Guards Parade ground off Whitehall, which leads to the Queen's official residence in London. From there, a carriage procession takes them to Buckingham Palace, where Dr Tan will stay for two nights until Thursday.

There, he will get a private viewing of Singapore-related items in the Royal Collection comprising works of art and artefacts collected by the British royal family over centuries. The Queen will host a private luncheon and a state banquet in his honour. London's Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf will also host Dr Tan to a banquet at Guildhall, the City of London's administrative centre, while Prime Minister David Cameron will host lunch at 10 Downing Street, the home and office of British prime ministers.

Dr Tan will also meet the leaders of the main British political parties: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who heads the Liberal Democrats, and opposition leader Ed Miliband of the Labour Party.

Apart from these meetings, the President will lay a ceremonial wreath on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier - a monument dedicated to British soldiers who have fallen in war - at Westminster Abbey. After London, Dr Tan will visit Bristol, where the city's elected Mayor George Ferguson will host lunch.

The President will be accompanied by his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, on the state visit. Also with him will be Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Environment and Water Resources; Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for National Development and Defence; and some Members of Parliament. In Dr Tan's absence, the chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, Mr J.Y. Pillay, will exercise the functions of the office of the President.



This article was first published on Oct 20, 2014.
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