Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore

02/11/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/10/2017 23:11

MFA Press Statement: Visit of Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower Sam Tan to Norway, 6 to 11 February 2017

Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower Sam Tan attended the 21 Saami Conference and various other Saami events in Trondheim, Norway, from 6 to 11 February 2017. MOS Tan delivered remarks at the 21 Saami Conference on 10 February. The text of MOS Tan's remarks is appended.

On the sidelines of the conference, MOS Tan met, amongst others, Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, Norwegian State Secretary of Local Government and Modernisation Anne Karin Olli, President of the Saami Council Áile Jávo, President of the Finnish Saami Parliament Tiina Sanila-Aikio and President of the Norwegian Saami Parliament Vibeke Larsen. They reaffirmed Singapore's contributions to the work of the Arctic Council, and discussed possible future collaborations.

MOS Tan departs for Singapore today.

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11 FEBRUARY 2017


Presidents of the Saami Parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden


Distinguished speakers

Ladies and gentlemen

1 A very good morning. It is my pleasure and privilege to join you at the opening of the 21 Saami Conference in the beautiful city of Trondheim. Singapore is honoured to be invited to this celebration, which is a first for us since we became an Arctic Council observer in 2013. Although this is my first visit to Trondheim, I actually feel at home. In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to visit other charming regions in Norway, including Sommarøy, Karasjok, and the Arctic wilderness of Svalbard. In fact, I have visited Norway's Arctic capital Tromsø on quite a number of occasions, most recently for the Arctic Frontiers conference two weeks ago. And now I am back to Norway again. I would like to especially thank our Norwegian hosts and the Saami Council for their warm welcome and hospitality this week.

2 I also wish to extend my warmest congratulations to the Saami on the 100 anniversary of the first Saami cross-border congress. These week-long celebrations are a tribute to the common heritage of the Saami people and the important contributions the Saami have made in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. I had the opportunity to attend several Saami events over the past week, including the 5 Saami Parliamentary Conference on Tuesday. I have learnt much about the Saami's rich heritage and culture, but also ways in which you are looking to the future.

3 So why is Singapore, an equatorial island located in the tropics, represented in Trondheim today? Although we are geographically distant, Singapore, Norway and the other Nordic countries have more in common than we realise! Firstly, we are united by our common commitment to the Arctic, which is also an integral part of Saami heritage, culture, and way of life. Our countries are attuned to the rapid changes in the Arctic that are taking place. The effects of climate change have created difficulties for those living in the Arctic, but also opportunities for economic development. These changes in the Arctic create ripples to other parts of the world away as sea ice melts, opening up the possibility of new sea routes through the North. Given these changes, the Arctic Council's work in spearheading environmental protection and sustainable development is vital to ensure that the Arctic remains a region of growth and prosperity. The six Arctic Council Permanent Participants, including the Saami Council, play a valuable role in these efforts, by contributing traditional knowledge and on-the-ground expertise to resolve these challenges.

4 In this connection, Singapore is committed to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants, where we have the relevant knowledge and expertise. As a small country with no natural resources, our strength lies in building up human capital. To this end, we established the Singapore-Arctic Council Permanent Participants Cooperation Package in 2014. Under the Package, Permanent Participant representatives can receive postgraduate scholarships for select Masters' programmes in Singapore universities, attend short-term capacity-building courses, and customised study visits to Singapore. We had the pleasure of hosting Saami Council President Aile Javo and other Saami Council representatives in Singapore on two study visits in 2012 and 2014. They were briefed by several of our agencies on Singapore's strategies on food security, mental wellness, port management and infocomm technology. It was a unique opportunity for Singapore and the Saami to exchange ideas and learn from each other, and I hope to welcome President Javo to Singapore again soon, after the birth of your third child! I also look forward to the participation of other Saami leaders in future study visits to Singapore.

5 As a non-Arctic state, we have endeavoured to learn more about developments in the Arctic, which have far-reaching implications on Singapore, Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. To this end, we contribute to the Arctic Council's Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Emergency Preparedness, Prevention and Response (EPPR) working groups. Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a key stopover point for Arctic migratory birds along the East Asian Australasian Flyway. We recently hosted the Arctic Council Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI) workshop in Singapore, which was supported by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Parks Board and the Norwegian Embassy in Singapore. The workshop was the largest Arctic Council event in Southeast Asia, and facilitated discussions on strengthening collaborations on migratory birds conservation in Southeast Asia. Events such as this help to bring conversations on the Arctic to Singapore and Southeast Asia, and aid the Arctic Council's goal of raising public awareness on these important global issues.

6 Secondly, we are united by the fact that we are open and multicultural societies. This week-long celebration in Trondheim is testament to the progress in social harmony made over the past one hundred years. As a diverse nation with citizens of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian ancestry, Singapore values racial and religious harmony as the bedrock of our society. We are a nation of immigrants, and most of our forefathers travelled from China, India, and Southeast Asia in search of a better life. In the present day, Singaporeans, among many other nationalities, are also forging new frontiers abroad. Just two weeks ago I met a small community of Singaporeans living and working so far up north in Tromsø, and Singapore is also host to a large Norwegian community. Indeed we are happy that they add to the cultural diversity of our nation, and bring us interesting new foods such as brown cheese and reindeer meat! Even as global trends seek to withdraw and become more exclusive, we who live in these multicultural societies must maintain our social harmony and celebrate our diversity despite our differences, while preserving a common space for all to interact. This will require a concerted approach by all communities and ethnicities to maintain regular dialogue and interaction. I am confident that Singapore, Norway, and the other Nordic countries will continue to do so. Indeed a Singaporean invited to speak at a Saami conference in Norway is testament to open dialogue, and an honest exchange of views and ideas.

7 It has been an honour to participate in this week-long celebration with the Saami people and fellow guests from different nations. The Saami people I have met, and the local food and drinks I have tasted, coupled with the fresh cold air these last few days has already made me feel like half a Saami. Thank you once again to the Saami Council and our Norwegian hosts for the excellent arrangements at this meeting. To reciprocate your warm hospitality, I invite you to visit Singapore soon where we will gladly receive you. Thank you.