Remarks by Ambassador Kesavapany, SIF Governor, at SIF Connects! Kuala Lumpur

Singapore Deputy High Commissioner Mark Neo,
Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Michael Yeoh,
Dr Shariha Khalid,
My friend from Penang Encik Mohd Maliki Mohd Rapiee,
Distinguished guests,
Our programme alumni and SIF’s Friends of Singapore community in Malaysia,

Selamat Pagi! Welcome and thank you for joining us today at SIF Connects! Kuala Lumpur.

The SIF organises events like this to reconnect with our programme alumni as well as Friends of Singapore (FOS) in cities around the world. This is the fifth time we are reconnecting with FOS in KL. It reflects our commitment to strengthening ties between Singaporean and Malaysian communities, at the people-to-people level.

We have good cause to celebrate today. This year marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia. We also celebrate 22 years of friendships between Singaporeans and Malaysians through SIF programmes, beginning with the participation of four Malaysian students in the SIF-ASEAN Fellowship programme in 1993. Fast forward to present day, our Malaysian friends are working with us to promote better understanding between Singaporeans and Malaysians through the book Singapore: Insights from the Inside. In this compilation of 50 stories by FOS who have visited, worked or studied in Singapore, contributors share their perspectives of Singapore’s head, heart and soul. This book is especially meaningful on the occasion of Singapore’s golden jubilee celebrations or SG50, and we are grateful for the keen insights and advice of our friends in shaping the next chapter of the Singapore story.

Today’s dialogue is focused on What’s next for Singapore and marks the third in a series of conversations with friends, which began with the book launch in Singapore in March, and SIF Connects! in Bandung, Indonesia, in June. What has been shared by our FOS thus far, coupled with the insights and advice from you today, and at our next two dialogues in Washington DC and London, will culminate in a concluding dialogue at SIF Connects! Singapore this December. We hope to see all of you at the other side of the causeway, at the close of the year.

Today’s event also celebrates the efforts by both Singaporeans and Malaysians in building inclusive societies with a thriving human spirit. We are heartened to reconnect with our programme alumni and friends today. We are delighted that Mohd Souffi, whom we first met in 2005 at the SIF International Student Symposium, is today volunteering as SIF’s representative in KL, to help us reach out to and reconnect with our Malaysian friends and alumni. It is also heartening to see two of our Malaysian SIF-ASEAN Fellows from the early 2000s Nur Nazlin Azrina binti Naimadduin and Ivy Chai, as well as alumni from our Young Social Entrepreneurs programme – Andrew Yin being one of them - today.

At the SIF, we promote cross-cultural interaction and understanding, as well as encourage the harnessing of connections for positive change. Book contributor Malaysian Deputy High Commissioner to Singapore, Mdm Kamsiah Kamaruddin said, and I quote her, “Sharing each other’s arts and culture can also bring about a better understanding between the peoples of two nations." We could not agree more. We have supported several arts and cultural collaborations between Singaporeans and Malaysians to reach out to and promote understanding between our two communities, as well as for social impact. This we characterise as arts for good. Please allow me to cite two examples:

  • Firstly, Singaporean artist Alecia Neo (who is with us today) is working on a collaboration with the artistic and visually-impaired communities in Malaysia. This is intended to serve as a platform to engage the community later this year in a dialogue about disabilities.
  • Secondly, arts initiatives like SIN-PEN Colony – which celebrates the shared culture between two cities in theatre, design, music and cuisine - harnesses the arts to bridge communities.

Young social entrepreneurs from both sides of the causeway can also help build and strengthen cross-cultural ties. This week, participants from SIF’s Young Social Entrepreneurs or YSE programme are in town for the inaugural study visit to Malaysia. They will spend a week in Kuala Lumpur and Johor getting to know, share and learn from the local social enterprise community. We are confident that the new friendships forged will inspire action and enable collaborations for good.

The work of the SIF – in bringing world communities together to do good – would not be successful without the support of our alumni, partners and FOS in Malaysia. We wish to especially thank Dr Shariha and the Scope Group and Encik Maliki, who as President of the Malaysian Youth Council then, was the staunchest supporter of SIF’s Friendship Express programme in 2012 and 2013. We are also grateful to Dato’ Dr Yeoh, YSE alumnus Andrew and our embassy colleagues in KL for agreeing to participate in the panel discussion.

We look forward to a good discussion among friends this afternoon – conversations that will open up a world of possibilities on how we might connect and collaborate for change. Thank you for taking precious time off on a Saturday to be with us.



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