S'pore inviting leaders of M'sia, Indonesia & Brunei to NDP 2019

A parade can also be a mini-summit.

Sulaiman Daud | July 04, 2019, 06:05 PM

On July 3, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced that 2019's National Day Parade (NDP) will be graced by foreign guests.

According to CNA, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of Indonesia, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia will attend the NDP during the bicentennial celebrations.

The last time foreign leaders visited Singapore for the NDP was in 2015, including then-Malaysian PM Najib Razak and then-Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, Today reported.

Return to the Padang

Singapore marked its 50th year of independence in 2015.

Coincidentally, the 2015 parade was held at the Padang, which will also serve as the location for this year's parade.

The PMO statement said:

"Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia are close neighbours and friends of Singapore and we have deep historical ties with these countries."

Meeting old friends

Of course, Singapore doesn't just hand out invitations for fun.

Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia are three major Muslim-majority nations within Asean, and are our close neighbours.

Inviting the leaders of those countries to a significant event like Singapore's bicentennial celebrations demonstrates the value that Singapore places on these relationships.

All three leaders have been beset by problems of their own in recent months.

PM Mahathir has had to deal with a lurid sex scandal allegedly involving one of his cabinet ministers.

President Jokowi faced protests from supporters of his defeated political rival, Prabowo Subianto, at the recent Indonesia presidential elections.

And the Sultan faced heavy criticism after Brunei announced a new law imposing the death penalty for gay sex, adultery and rape, which was then put on hold.

Perhaps the visit to Singapore will be a good opportunity to enjoy a day of celebration away from the problems at home.

Asean Unity

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the host, will also be glad to demonstrate his good relationship with his fellow Asean leaders.

During the Asean summit, PM Lee emphasised the importance of unity in the face of trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

Although he acknowledged that it was sometimes difficult to find areas of common ground, it was important to work together where interests are aligned.

The NDP will be useful for bringing the leaders together face-to-face.

Prime Minister-in-waiting

Assuming that he won't be on an overseas trip, the NDP represents a golden opportunity for Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to strengthen his own personal relationships with the leaders.

Heng is prominent in meetings with Chinese leaders, such as Premier Li Keqiang.

But he has also previously met with Mahathir in Malaysia, and joined PM Lee's delegation to the Leader's Retreat in Bali with Jokowi.

As next-in-line for the top job, Heng would be expected to maintain Singapore's strong bilateral ties with our neighbours.

Amidst the fireworks and pageantry, Heng could strengthen his own personal relationships with a president, a prime minister, and a Sultan in preparation for the day he takes the reins of power.

Top image from Asean's Facebook page.