Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Maliki Osman hosted a Hari Raya gathering for foreign dignitaries Sunday (June 16).
Unlike most gatherings attended by local and foreign dignitaries, the Sunday conclave did not have the usual podiums, hour-long speeches and display of national flags. Instead, more than 20 foreign dignitaries were treated to what Dr. Maliki called a ‘Raya diplomacy’. The informal gathering was utilised to forge new relationships and fortify existing ties with foreign neighbours.
The foreign ambassadors in attendance included Mr. Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud of Jordan, Mr. Ahn Young-Jip from South Korea, Ms Lynn McDonald from Canada and Ms Simona Halperin from Israel.
Some political office holders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei were also there such as Malaysia’s Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, Batam Mayor Muhammad Rudi and Brunei’s Second Minister of Defence Pehin Halbi.
A “foreign relations tool”
Dr. Maliki believes that the informal gathering he hosted would allow foreign dignitaries to have a more profound insight regarding Singapore’s way of doing things, its values, its ethics, and what it holds dear.
More than the gains achieved when foreign dignitaries meet at formal events, Dr Maliki said that it is also important to build personal relationships with Singapore’s neighbours in gatherings that are not so solemn and deeply ceremonial.
“Should there be any issues that need to be resolved, the personal relationship, that phone call, is the one that is going to make a difference,” he said.
“That’s really a reflection of their visit to my home today. Because they are all on WhatsApp basis with me.”
Germany’s ambassador to Singapore, Dr Ulrich A Sante, supported Dr. Maliki’s view when he said that such informal networking between diplomats is even more important than formal ones. It is through such gatherings that people understand the differences between different nations and customs, the German ambassador added.
“That’s the way how (sic) we break an eventual deadlock and create peace, stability and prosperity,” he further asserted.
Mr Liew, who was attending the lunch for the first time, said it is good for countries like Singapore and Malaysia, which have “shared traditions, shared history”, to have more meetings, both formal and informal.
Cambodia’s ambassador to Singapore, Mr Nguon Sokveng, also attended the gathering, despite recent unhappiness the Indochinese country had over Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook comments on the 1978 Vietnam invasion of Cambodia.
When asked how such meetings could help resolve the disagreement, he said: “Any conversation would be very good.” /TISG
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