Speech By Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister For Education (Higher Education And Skills) At The Launch Of The New Royal Commonwealth Society Of Singapore, 7.45pm On 14 March 2016 Residence Of British High Commissioner, His Excellency Scott Wightman

Published Date: 14 March 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

High Commissioner Scott Wightman

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

1. It gives me great pleasure to be with you this evening to mark two important milestones in the partnership between Singapore and the Commonwealth.

2. First, the establishment of a new Royal Commonwealth Society of Singapore. As many of you know, founded in 1868, the Royal Commonwealth Society boasts a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of Commonwealth citizens across the world, and to promoting the values of the Commonwealth. Singapore is proud to be part of this network.

3. Second, the launch of new Commonwealth Fellowships for Singaporeans to study innovation related subjects in the United Kingdom. Every country now knows that economic competitiveness is tied to innovation, which is in turn driven by how well we nurture and attract talent, and how well we develop top-notch research institutions that are at the frontier of technology. We all share that goal.

Development of Bilateral Relations

4. The latest initiatives build upon a bilateral relationship that has come a long way since Singapore hosted the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 1971, with Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the first Chairperson. Through the Singapore-Commonwealth Third Country Training Programme established in 1994, Singapore has worked closely with the Commonwealth to share our development experience with member states. Our active participation is testament to our commitment to the Commonwealth’s core beliefs of institutional co-operation and multilateralism.

5. Beyond institutional co-operation, what makes UK-Singapore relations flourish are the people to people connections. Since their inception in 1959, nearly 30,000 individuals from Commonwealth countries have benefited from the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships to pursue advanced academic study in other Commonwealth countries. Many award holders have returned home to make significant contributions in their countries, and in many cases at the highest level. This makes the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships scheme one of the largest and most prestigious in the world. We have amongst us today former Commonwealth Scholars, including Professor Walter Woon, and Mr Abdullah Tarmugi.

6. Our countries also have a strong connection in the area of innovation, and we have both benefitted from such partnerships. For example, Rolls-Royce has been partnering our educational institutions, such as the Nanyang Technological University, or NTU. Combining NTU’s strength in engineering and science with the industrial capabilities of Rolls-Royce in power systems, the partnership had culminated in the setting up of the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab in 2013. The Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus located at Seletar Aerospace Park is the Group’s only plant outside of Derby, UK.

7. Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is another shining example of partnership-driven innovation between the UK and Singapore. Designed by British firms and supported by Singapore firms, Gardens by the Bay has become quite an icon, having bagged multiple awards worldwide for its innovations in green technology and architecture.

New Royal Commonwealth Society of Singapore

8. Today we are at a new milestone of our relations. And it all came about when President Tony Tan conducted the first State Visit of a Singapore President to the UK in 2014. At the State Banquet in honour of President Tan at Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth announced that the Royal Commonwealth Society of Singapore would be re-established. Beyond the promotion of the Commonwealth, it will have a new purpose and is in line with the times. The Society will henceforth also foster and oversee the new Singapore Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships in Innovation for Singaporeans to study in the UK.

9. The new Singapore Commonwealth Fellowships have been made possible thanks to the founding contribution by the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. It will strengthen our mutual efforts to drive innovation by supporting Singaporeans to pursue innovation-related areas in academia or industry. The new Commonwealth Scholarships, to be launched at a later date, will support Singaporeans who are enrolling into formal post-graduate courses. These initiatives herald a new age of partnership-driven innovation.


10. For the younger generations of today, we may have grown up with a fainter memory of the Commonwealth. Singapore cherishes every linkage that we have, and it is our sense of a shared past that connects us together with the rest of the Commonwealth countries.

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