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El Mercurio de Chile On Line | PM Lee meets world leaders, commemorates Mahatma Gandhi at UN event

NEW YORKPrime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met several world leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday (Sept 24), discussing ways for Singapore to deepen cooperation in the areas of trade and investment with countries as distant as Panama and Uganda.

PM Lee also paid tribute to India’s independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, honouring the late freedom fighter’s legacy of non-violent resistance and philosophy of individual equality at an event marking the 150th anniversary of his birth on Oct 2.

After Gandhi died in 1948 and was cremated, Singapore received part of his ashes, which were scattered at sea 3.2km from the southern tip of Singapore.

Other places in Singapore also honour Gandhi‘s legacy, said PM Lee, citing as an example the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the Race Course Lane headquarters of the Hindi Society.

“But beyond these physical traces, Gandhi‘s ideas and ideals have resonated and endured,” said PM Lee said at the commemorative forum hosted by India.

He said that the national hero’s philosophy of non-violence remains sage advice today, in a world where differences are more easily amplified and people take offence more readily.

Said Prime Minister Lee: “If we take Gandhi‘s message to heart, then we must try our best to resolve differences calmly and peacefully, appreciating the views of the other side, and without inflaming passions or hardening attitudes.

“In so doing, we will build mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for one another.”

  Related Story PM Lee Hsien Loong accepts award in New York recognising Singapore‘s religious harmony   Related Story PM Lee, Trump renew key defence pact on US use of Singapore air, naval bases Gandhi also believed in the intrinsic equality of every person, a fundamental ideal which Singapore upholds, said the Prime Minister.

Not only did Singapore become independent because it wanted to be a country where everyone was treated equally regardless of race, language or religion, but it also continues to work hard to strengthen its social cohesion today, he added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and five other heads of government also paid tribute to Gandhi: Mr Narendra Modi of India, Mr Moon Jae-in of South Korea, Ms Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Mr Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Ms Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand.

Together, they inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park at the UN headquarters in New York, the Gandhi Peace Garden at the State University of New York College, and UN postage stamps commemorating the Indian hero’s 150th birth anniversary.

MEETINGS WITH WORLD LEADERS The United Nations General Assembly’s general debate – the highlight of the week-long global summit, where world leaders gather to give speeches and discuss global issues – began on Tuesday.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel at the UN Headquarters in New York on Sept 24, 2019. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

On its sidelines, PM Lee met Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel, who is also the incoming president of the European Council.

Both leaders reaffirmed the excellent state of relations between their two countries and explored ways to deepen their economic ties, said the Prime Minister‘s Office (PMO) in a statement.

They discussed the close and broad-based relations between the European Union and Singapore, and the regional grouping’s continued role in strengthening the multilateral rules-based order against rising protectionist sentiments in the world, the PMO added.

PM Lee and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands touched on Singapore‘s schemes to advance financial technology, and discussed how inclusive finance – financial services for lower-income people who cannot access traditional banking services – can enable social development.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets with NetherlandsQueen Maxima at the UN Headquarters in New York on Sept 24, 2019. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

In another meeting, PM Lee and Uganda Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda exchanged views on the warm relations between Uganda and Singapore, said the PMO.

Both leaders also discussed further collaborating in areas such as trade and investment, and explored potential regional partnerships, including with the East African Community, it added.

PM Lee also met Panama President Laurentino Cortizo and invited him to visit Singapore soon.

Both leaders reaffirmed the strong ties between Singapore and Panama, and noted their countries’ good cooperation at international meetings, said the PMO.

They exchanged views on expanding the strong economic ties between Singapore and Panama, both of which are small, externally-oriented countries acting as hubs in their respective regions of South-east Asia and Latin America, it added.

Mr Cortizo welcomed the growing presence of Singapore companies in Panama, including in maritime and port operations, as well as information technology.

Both leaders also zeroed in on education, infrastructure, logistics development, and urban solutions as potential new areas to cooperate further in.