Goh Urges Portugal to Renew Old Ties

Seeking to build on linguistic and historical ties to Portugal, Singapore's Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, visited Lisbon to expand bilateral relations. "We welcome you in Asia, like you are welcoming us in Europe," Tong said. Singapore is already one of Portugal’s biggest investors, although trade between the countries has so far been modest. Being at the forefront of an economic alliance between the European Union and the Association of Southeast-Asian Nations (Asean) could boost growth and private sector business in both countries. Business was not the only topic of discussion for the two leaders – both called for further cooperation in science, education, and the arts. –YaleGlobal

Goh Urges Portugal to Renew Old Ties

Seeing signs in Lisbon of historic links to S-E Asia, PM Goh says it should take advantage of this
Tan Tarn How
Thursday, December 4, 2003

PRIME Minister Goh Chok Tong on Tuesday said that the familiar words he sees in signs all over Lisbon is a reminder of the centuries-long ties between Portugal and South-east Asia, as he urged for a rekindling of the old links.

While in the capital over the past two days, he recognised many words which have given rise to today's Malay words, he told Portuguese counterpart Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, his host at a dinner in the resplendent Palace of Necessity.

He cited the word for 'school' in Portuguese, 'escola', which is the origin of the Malay 'sekolah'.

And then there are names such as Vasco da Gama, the great 15th and 16th-century Portuguese explorer, whom he had learnt about in school.

In talking about historical links, Mr Goh also mentioned the Singaporeans of Portuguese descent with surnames such as Rodrigues and de Souza.

But these ties have been disrupted of late, he noted. He called on Portugal to renew its links with the region by building on its past foundation.

'You should take advantage of your historical ties, cultural influence and knowledge of our region,' he said.

'We welcome you in Asia, like you are welcoming us in Europe.'

Portugal, a country of 10 million people, seized Malacca in 1511 when it was the seat of a sultanate of which Singapore was a part.

In his speech, Mr Goh also reiterated that both governments were keen to boost economic ties, a signal that will encourage private sector businesses.

Although trade is modest, Singapore is one of Portugal's major investors, Mr Goh said, with PSA Corp putting in 60 million euros (S$125 million) in a joint port venture here.

He also dwelt once more on one of his abiding themes, the need for the European Union, now preoccupied with expanding its membership, to continue keeping Asean and the rest of Asia in its sights or risk being left out.

Mr Goh, who is on a three-day official visit at the invitation of Mr Durao Barroso, said he had to postpone this trip until now because of Sars and the Iraq war.

'I am glad that finally I am able to visit your country with its rich history, and warm and welcoming people.'

Singapore and Portugal enjoy friendly relations, both leaders said, and this visit had further strengthened bilateral relations.

There is also scope to cooperate further in other areas, such as culture and the arts, Mr Goh said.

In fact, both sides are negotiating a memorandum of understanding on cultural, scientific and educational cooperation. This pact will be an additional framework to expand bilateral relations, he said.

Mr Durao Barroso said that Portugal believes it is important to maintain ties with Singapore and South-east Asia.

'Also, we are ready to help in strengthening relations between Singapore and Asean with the European Union,' he said.

Meanwhile, according to a Singapore official, leaders of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, who briefed Mr Goh earlier in the afternoon, are keen to take up his idea that the foundation work with Singapore research institutes to trace the roots of the Asian-Portuguese community in Singapore and the region.

The foundation is also keen on his idea of working with the Asia-Europe Foundation to arrange student exchanges.

Mr Goh also suggested that the foundation take the artworks in its Calouste Gulbenkian Museum for a show in Singapore.

His proposal to the Orient Foundation, which also briefed him, that its members teach Portuguese to members of the Eurasian Association of Singapore was also keenly received, the official added.

Mr Goh was also briefed by the Portuguese trade and investment agency, Agencia Portuguesa para o Investimento (API).

Yesterday morning, Mr Goh, who is accompanied by Foreign Affairs and Law Minister S. Jayakumar, visited Pena Palace in the tourist town of Sintra.

He later left for Nigeria, where he will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which starts tomorrow.

© 2003 Singapore Press Holdings.

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