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Using ‘Raya diplomacy’ to strengthen Singapore’s ties with neighbours

SINGAPORE — More than 20 foreign dignitaries were gathered on Sunday (June 16), but there were no rostrums, long speeches or national flags displayed. Instead, they were having a Hari Raya get-together at Dr Maliki Osman’s house.

Dr Maliki Osman taking a wefie with guests at his Hari Raya gathering.

Dr Maliki Osman taking a wefie with guests at his Hari Raya gathering.

SINGAPORE — More than 20 foreign dignitaries were gathered on Sunday (June 16), but there were no rostrums, long speeches or national flags displayed. Instead, they were having a Hari Raya get-together at Dr Maliki Osman’s house.

The Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs calls it “Raya diplomacy”, using an informal gathering to develop and strengthen Singapore’s ties with its foreign neighbours.

Some of the foreign ambassadors who attended the lunch 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 of the guests at Dr Maliki Osman's Hari Raya gathering. Photos: Najeer Yusof

Some political office holders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei were also there: Malaysia’s Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, Batam Mayor Muhammad Rudi and Brunei’s Second Minister of Defence Pehin Halbi.

Some foreign dignitaries, such as Mr Ahn and Mr Mahmoud, were decked out in batik.

It was not the first time Dr Maliki was hosting Hari Raya gatherings for foreign dignitaries.

He believes an informal gathering such as this would also allow foreign dignitaries to gain a deeper understanding about Singapore and how people of different ethnicities interact.

Puan Noor Aishah, Singapore's former First Lady.

Beyond just meeting at formal events, Dr Maliki said that it is also important to build personal relationships with Singapore’s neighbours.

“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.”

Dr Maliki's family gave him a surprise Father's Day celebration.

Germany’s ambassador to Singapore, Dr Ulrich A Sante, 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, he added.

“That’s the way how we break an eventual deadlock and create peace, stability and prosperity,” he said.

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.

Some of the guests wore batik or traditional Malay costumes.

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.”

Besides the foreign dignitaries, other guests included Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sam Tan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry as well as Education Chee Hong Tat and Puan Noor Aishah, the wife of Singapore’s first president Yusof Ishak.

Related topics

Maliki Osman Raya diplomacy hari raya Heng Swee Keat Noor Aishah

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