MFA says non-resident Ambassadors have 'full authority of a diplomatic mission' after George Goh says role had 'no executive powers'

Goh described his role as "honorary", and that it had no salary or benefits.

Tan Min-Wei | August 01, 2023, 03:51 PM

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Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to questions about the role of non-resident Ambassadors (NRAs), saying that they have the same authority as that of a resident Ambassador.

Full authority

MFA's comments come after presidential hopeful George Goh described his position of NRA to Morocco as an "honorary position with no executive powers".

Goh had been visiting Haig Road Market and Food Centre on Jul 30, and was quoted by The Straits Times (ST) as saying that the NRA role was "an honorary position with no executive powers", and that he did not receive a salary nor any benefit from the role.

MFA clarified that NRAs are appointed by the government of Singapore, and are issued Letters of Credence from the president to the receiving nation.

As ambassadors, NRAs have the "full authority of a diplomatic mission, the same as that of a resident Ambassador's".

That authority was spelt out by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, such as representing the Singapore in the country they were accredited to, as well as protecting the interest of Singapore and its nationals in said country, within the limits permitted by international law.

NRAs were permitted to negotiate with the government of the country they were accredited to, on behalf of the government of Singapore; as well as reporting on conditions and developments in said country.

NRAs were also expected to promote friendly relations between Singapore and the accredited country, as well as developing economic, cultural, and scientific relations.

Claim of no executive powers

ST quoted Goh as saying that as NRA to Morocco, he "had no power to promise deals or make contracts", but could only ensure "solid and good" relations between the two countries.

But Goh added that it was honour to represent Singapore and be appointed by the state.

Goh said that he had been appointed as NRA to Morocco in 2016, and was lauded by Morocco's Ambassador to Singapore as assisting business relations between Morocco and Singapore.

Talent pool

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan had explained earlier on Jun 21 why Singapore had NRA's.

He said the scheme was needed to generate enough people to take up "ambassadorial roles in all countries that matter to us", and that the NRA scheme allowed a larger pool of potential talent.

When asked about George Goh, Vivian decline to comment on his presidential bid, but did say that Goh had "done good work in representing us with Morocco".

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Top image via Glassdoor & George Goh Chin Wah/Facebook