REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO
AT THE GALA DINNER HOSTED FOR THE CREW MEMBERS
OF THE JEWEL OF MUSCAT AT THE ASIAN CIVILISATIONS
MUSEUM ON 5 JULY 2010
Dear Relatives and Friends,
Tonight, we celebrate. It is a big celebration, because the Jewel of
Muscat’s epic journey from Muscat to Singapore, based on navigational
methods of over a thousand years ago, tells a remarkable story.
It is a big story about which much more research would have to be done
for years to come. You can pick it from different points. Many of you would
have seen samples of the Tang cargo. It was by a fluke, by an accident that
the cargo came into Singapore’s possession. It was found by fishermen almost
twenty years ago. The salvage company was unable to sell the entire cargo
and they were about to break it up. One day, a representative wrote me a
strange letter telling me about the cargo and offering it to Singapore. I receive
all kinds of letters in the course of my work and I was about to put it in the
out tray when I thought I better read it again. Then I thought, maybe I should
see him. He came to my office and showed me the pictures, and he persuaded
me that Singapore was the best place to house the cargo and that it should
not be broken up, because if you break it up, it loses its meaning. But the
cost of it was beyond the resources that we had. We could not justify to the
taxpayers of Singapore acquiring antiques, so I thought, let me think about it.
I asked Sentosa, I asked the [Singapore] Tourism Board. The Tourism Board
said, “Yes, we can justify it based on tourism,” but they could only stump up
a part of the money.
But you know, God has a way of providing and one day, the Khoo
Foundation offered to stump up half the money. And so, it was within grasp.
But the price was too high and we had to negotiate it down. In the end,
the company went into trouble and they wanted a loan from us. We gave
them the loan, secured against key elements of the artefacts, and in the end
had a reasonable bargain. So it came into our possession. The pieces were
in New Zealand – 60,000 pieces. We had to bring them over, didn't really
know what to do, didn't really understand what it meant, we only knew it
was very old and that there were some interesting gold and silver pieces.
Among the pieces were a few “blue-and-whites”. Now we all know that
the “blue-and-whites” marked the Ming Dynasty which came hundreds of
years later. The blue being the blue of cobalt from Iran, but the Chinese had
experimented with it for a long time. The Tang Dynasty, which is famous
for its san cai – brown, green, yellow and … red – were only beginning
to experiment. In that cargo, I think there were three or five pieces in
perfect condition, precursors – centuries later – of Ming blue and whites.
So you can take the story from Chinese ceramics, you can take it from
the perspective of geo-politics. It was the age of Tang – Tang was the greatest
empire in Chinese history. A number of its Prime Ministers were not Chinese
but Central Asians. When its army crossed into Central Asia, incidentally
under a Korean general, it met the Abbasids in Central Asia and was defeated
by the Abbasids. It was also the age of Nalanda in India, when the Buddhist
University attracted students from all over Asia, and at its peak had 10,000
students, including students from Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Korea,
Mongolia, Kazakhstan … many other places. It was the age of Srivijaya in
Southeast Asia, and the kingdoms along the maritime Silk Route competed
for the China trade. One of the most important kingdoms in South Asia, the
Cholas, destroyed Srivijaya in order to capture their trade. So you can take
that story from an earlier age of globalization, when like today, far flung
places were connected.
But it is also a story of the human spirit, about the Omani spirit. We all
know that in its heydays, Oman’s influence stretched all along the Swahili
coast down to Zanzibar, to Baluchistan, to Gwadar. How did such a small
population fan out over such a wide area, when navigational technology,
when ship technology was so primitive? I was reflecting: when a dhow was
sent out, what percentage would ever come back? And the families who sent
out their menfolk on these journeys, they must know that many will not come
back and worse, we may never know what happened to them. Maybe they
will come back one day. People grow old but still the hope, a prayer that
maybe they had survived, settled and will re-establish contact – or they may
never do so. To preserve such a spirit of adventure required an entire social
system of families, extended families, tribes holding together. A way by
which, when people do not come back, their children and families are looked
after. Over the centuries, these journeys shaped that value system, the culture
of the Omani people, giving them a strength and tenacity that we see even
I have been to Muscat just once. But you know Sayyid Badr, it was a
very happy visit, we felt so welcomed. You are modest people not given
to ostentation, a certain sense of proportion. I visited your Grand Mosque.
Yes, it was grand but it was understated, and beautiful and calm. I walked
through your souk. It was spotless and after a half an hour investigation, at
the end of it, I found one sweet paper at the end of the alley and I said “Ah,
I found a piece of litter.” Unlike Singapore, there were no trash cans so
the sense of cleanliness, of social responsibility is internalised. How did it
come about? Because of long years of having to look after one another, not
knowing whether people would come back, not knowing what the future
would bring. We are so fortunate that because of a decision taken years ago
to acquire some pieces of pottery, we have re-established an ancient link
between Singapore and Oman, between Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Sayyid Badr was in the car with me as I was travelling to my hotel,
near the roundabout, he said, "That's the Sinbad ship which we constructed
to establish how the ancient mariners travelled from Muscat to China. They
proved it could be done.” I told him of the Tang cargo, and my suspicion
that it came from the Omani coast. Half in jest, I said, “If we had the money,
could you build it for us?” I wasn't sure because we didn't have the money.
We hardly had enough money for the cargo, let alone the museum to house it
or the research facility to understand what we have acquired. He said, “Yes,
it could be done” and we discussed it and a few months later, came the
wonderful news that Sultan Qaboos had decided to rebuild it and donate it
to Singapore. It's not as if you are rebuilding on a plan that you are aware of.
You are building something, so long ago, of wood, of methods that had long
been lost. So much work had to be done, so many studies had to be made, so
many experiments had first to fail before this could be accomplished. And
then, finally, the journey.
When they left on February 16, I suddenly felt a chill down my spine
because what if something had happened, and people perished. And that night
I told my wife, I said, “Let us pray”, because… I know Captain Saleh you had
every faith, but I do not have the same faith as you and I was quite worried.
Then, on the Internet I could see the little boat chugging along to Cochin
and then to Galle, [then to] Penang. Then we saw you finally in Selat Pauh,
that morning when we had wind and rain. I think all of us felt so emotional.
You have a remarkable King. When he made that decision, it was not
just a decision to make a State gift. It was really a decision to tell his people
about their past, so that they are better prepared for the future. And that future
is about a new Asia, a new age of globalisation, a new silk road much larger
than the one before, which will connect us altogether again. And that, which
had prepared you all these years for the journeys, will prepare you very well
for the future and we count ourselves so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate to
have you as our friend.
So to the crew, Captain Saleh and all your incredible mariners: welcome,
thank you and Godspeed.
This was my fourth visit to Aceh after the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, my third to Meulaboh. On my first visit in 2005, the landscape was devastated. There were no animals. A year later, I could see visible improvement even though many people were still living in tents. This time, life had returned to normal. Shops were well-stocked, even the buffalos looked healthy and one almost got knocked by a car in our convoy.
Governor Irwandi Yusuf has become a close friend. He told me many stories about his years as a GAM leader, his chance arrest and how he narrowly escaped drowning when the tsunami flooded his prison. With peace, there is hope for Aceh. Foreign aid has improved the infrastructure. The province has abundant natural resources and good agricultural land. Acehnese are known to be traders. Although the economy has cooled a little with financial assistance tapering off, the overall conditions for economic development are much better.
Because of the tsunami, Aceh has become closer to Singapore and Singaporeans. The SAF played a significant role in the rescue effort.
Since then, the Singapore Red Cross, Mercy Relief, the Singapore International Foundation and many other Singapore NGOs have contributed much. I had the honour to open first the pier and, this time, the new hospital, in Meulaboh and a school for orphans in Banda Aceh. Last week, the World Bank agreed to partner us in helping build up the administrative capacity in Meulaboh. In helping others, we help ourselves and become a better people.
On the morning of 19 June 2010, in a simple but moving ceremony, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and I laid wreaths at the State War Memorial at Kings Park which has a commanding view of Perth and the Swan River. Veterans assembled with their medals; a bugler played the last post. Most moving was the recitation of the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon's "For the Fallen". In Canberra, in every state, in every community, at sites all over the world like Singapore and Gallipoli, they remember those who gave their lives in war.
LEST WE FORGET
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon - For The Fallen (4th Stanza)
I had the pleasure of hosting Indian Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath to my constituency at Bedok Reservoir. We are old friends. We first met when he was Environment Minister when he generously donated to our zoo two Indian rhinos. Later we worked together when he was Commerce Minister. I attended his son's wedding in Delhi a few years ago, wearing my Nehru suit. At the last Indian GE when Congress achieved great success, he was the campaign manager. As Road Transport Minister, he is well on his way to building 20 km of highways a day!
When he arrived, I showed him Bedok Reservoir. We then adjourned to a nearby coffeeshop for dinner which consisted of chicken rice, Indian rojak, fried carrot cake, fruits and other local dishes. He brought along the Indian High Commissioner and two Indian entrepreneurs, Mr Raju of GMR which owns one of our power stations and Mr Malvinder Singh of Fortis. After dinner, I took them on a visit to two HDB apartments where we were warmly hosted first by a Malay family, then by a Chinese family. We then walked across to my MPS at Blk 713.
Singapore is a small country where an MP can be easily accessible to residents. Minister Nath's constituency in Madhya Pradesh is twenty times the size of Singapore with 1.5 million voters many of whom earn less than US$1 a day.
TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO'S REPLY TO THE PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS, 18 MAY 2010
MR MICHAEL ANTHONY PALMER: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs in light of the lack of progress in the prosecution of the former Romanian diplomat Dr Silviu Ionescu, whether the Ministry will consider severing diplomatic ties with
MS IRENE NG PHEK HOONG: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) if stern measures, including a review of bilateral ties, can be taken against Romania to register Singapore's strong protest against Romania's handling of the case involving its former diplomat Silviu Ionescu; and (b) given that Romania is a member of the European Union (EU), whether EU can also be involved in holding Romania to its international obligations.
Mr Speaker, Sir,
2 In other words, the key point is that, whether in
3 The Romanian Government has consistently maintained that while it shares our desire to see justice served, it cannot compel Dr Ionescu to return to
4 It is a fact that there is no Extradition Treaty. Since in the absence of such a Treaty, it is not possible for the Romanian Government to compel Dr Ionescu to stand trial in Singapore, and since Dr Ionescu has himself made clear in his comments to the Romanian media that he has no intention of voluntarily returning to Singapore, the responsibility now rests with the Romanian Government to carry out investigations expeditiously and to prosecute Dr Ionescu under Romanian law.
5 As I have told Members, the Romanian Government has asked for our cooperation in their investigations, and we will extend the fullest cooperation permissible under our law to the Romanian Government.
6 To this end we have appointed our Ambassador in
7 Our Special Envoy and officials from our Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) will visit
8 In February this year, the Romanian authorities started criminal investigations against Dr Ionescu on the charges of homicide by negligence, leaving the scene of an accident, and making false statements. He was also suspended from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
9 On 7 May 2010, the Romanian Prosecutor's Office announced that they have initiated the next phase in the criminal proceedings against Dr Ionescu. We understand that this phase, known in Romanian law as “criminal action”, means that the Prosecutor has sufficient basis to link Dr Ionescu to the offences being investigated. Dr Ionescu has been formally identified as a defendant. In addition, the Prosecutor has placed Dr Ionescu under arrest and has obtained a Court order to have Dr Ionescu remanded for an initial period of 29 days. Dr Ionescu’s appeal against this was dismissed and the 29 day detention remains in force. We understand that it is possible for the Prosecutor to seek an extension of the detention when the 29 days are up.
10 Mr Speaker, Sir, it would thus be wrong to conclude that there has been no progress in bringing Dr Ionescu to justice. The Romanian legal process has moved into a new phase. The Romanian Government knows that the country's reputation is at stake and has acted properly. The Romanian Foreign Minister himself has personally assured me that they want to see justice served.
11 From what we have read on the Internet, many Romanian citizens also feel that Dr Ionescu has disgraced their country and are deeply ashamed of him. They want their own government to see that justice is served.
12 But it is likely that it will take the Romanian authorities some time to conclude their own legal processes. We are not familiar with the Romanian system and do not know how long their processes will take. Another reason our Special Envoy and AGC officials are visiting
13 I understand the frustrations of Singaporeans at the pace at which the wheels of law appear to be grinding. But we must respect
14 I should stress to Members, as we have stressed to the Romanian Government, that the appointment of
15 Ms Irene Ng mentioned the EU. The case of Dr Ionescu is, strictly speaking, a bilateral matter between
16 It is not a coincidence that our Special Envoy on this case is also our Ambassador to the EU. The EU considers itself a "Union of Values" that, among other things, places great store by the rule of law. The EU requires that all its member states subscribe to and uphold the high standards that the EU espouses when they join the EU. The EU Ambassadors and European Commission officials that we have talked to all understand that not only
17 Last week, I was invited to lunch by the Spanish Ambassador at his residence to meet the EU Heads of
18 As I had said before, although we are all impatient to see justice done, now that the Romanian authorities have initiated criminal action against Dr Ionescu, we must allow them reasonable time to go through their own legal processes. At this stage, it would be inappropriate for us to prejudge the outcome or speculate on what we will do if the outcome is not what we would consider satisfactory.
19 I would, however, like to assure Members that the Romanian Government is fully aware that if justice is not done and seen to be done, bilateral relations are bound to be affected. We have the usual range of diplomatic options at our disposal but it would not be appropriate at this stage for me to discuss them in detail.
. . . . .
TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO'S REPLIES TO SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS, 18 MAY 2010
SPEAKER: Minister, were you replying to Question 2 also?
MINISTER: Yes, I was replying to both questions.
SPEAKER: Mr Palmer.
MR MICHAEL ANTHONY PALMER (PASIR RIS-PUNGGOL): Mr Speaker, Sir, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. May I ask if the Minister would be able to tell us the possible charges that Dr Ionescu could face in
MINISTER: Mr Speaker, Sir, let me be accurate. In February this year, the Romanian authorities started criminal investigations against Dr Ionescu on the charges of homicide by negligence, leaving the scene of an accident, and making false statements. I am not familiar with the stage at which judicial processes are taking place, neither am I familiar with the possible sentences should he be found guilty on those charges.
MS IRENE NG PHEK HOONG (TAMPINES): Sir, I thank the Minister for his reply. Can I ask the Minister if he agrees that, on the part of Singaporeans, it is not so much an impatience, but a need for clarity as well as a need for a clear commitment from Romania that indeed the wheels of justice are grinding forward, and not grinding sideways or grinding in a circular motion, which does not see any clear result at the end of the day? Sir, our concern is really whether Romania takes seriously the need to make sure that Dr Ionescu faces the charges that he deserves to face, that he will be will be brought to justice, and that whatever Romania’s justice system may be like, there must be surely some clear landmarks along the way that Romania authorities can let us know. This is so that we know that the wheels of justice are indeed grinding forward.
MINISTER: Mr Speaker, Sir, I cannot, on the basis of what they have done so far and their responses to our requests and applications, come to any conclusion that they are not committed to seeing this case through and in ensuring that justice is done. I mentioned to the House before that, quite by coincidence, I met the Romanian Foreign Minister at the
SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Irene Ng. Last question. Be brief, please.
MS IRENE NG PHEK HOONG (TAMPINES): Minister, can I ask - since the Romanian authorities have not sent their legal experts to review the evidence against Dr Ionescu in
MINISTER: Mr Speaker, Sir, we were told that before they could send their officials to Singapore for the Joint Technical Committee meeting, they needed to obtain certain clearances on their side and there were processes to follow. But this week, our people will be there in
TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO'S REPLY TO THE PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION, 26 APRIL 2010
Ng Phek Hoong: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a)
Singapore had provided the Romanian authorities with the evidence
to the accidents involving the Romanian diplomat Dr Silviu Ionescu;
(b) whether Singapore has been assured by the Romanian authorities that
charges will be brought against Dr Ionescu in Romania; and (c) whether
Singapore can take legal action against Dr Ionescu for casting
on the integrity of Singapore's judicial system.
1 Since I last updated this House on 22 February 2010 on the hit-and-run accident involving the Romanian Embassy vehicle, there have been a number of important developments.
2 On 31 March
2010, the State Coroner found that Dr Silviu Ionescu was the driver
responsible for the accident on 15 December 2009 and furthermore, that
he was acting in his private and not official capacity at that time.
3 The Romanian Government has officially withdrawn Dr Ionescu from Singapore with effect from 5 January 2010. This means that he is no longer an accredited diplomat in Singapore.
4 Taken together with the findings of the Coroner’s Inquiry, this has significantly changed the situation.
5 The privileges and immunities which diplomats enjoy during their posting in a country to which they are accredited are different from the privileges and immunities they enjoy after leaving their country of accreditation at the end of their posting. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations clearly recognizes these differences.
6 Article 39.1 of the Vienna Convention states that a diplomat’s privileges and immunities begin from the moment he enters the country of his posting. These privileges and immunities include freedom from detention and arrest and immunity from the jurisdiction of the criminal courts of the receiving State. As long as a diplomat remains accredited to a receiving State, his privileges and immunities in that State would apply to all his actions, whether official or private.
7 When Dr Ionescu left Singapore on 17 December 2009, he was still a diplomat officially accredited to Singapore. Therefore, as I explained to Members on 22 February 2010, Dr Ionescu could not be prevented from leaving Singapore as he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. In any case, the police had at that time not completed their investigations and it was not yet established that Dr Ionescu was the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident on 15 December last year.
8 In fact, even if Dr Ionescu did not leave Singapore after the accident, so long as he was an officially accredited diplomat we could not have arrested him unless the Romanian Government waived his immunity. His immunity would have covered anything he did, whether official or private. This is international law which we have to respect.
9 But the situation now is different and a different provision of the Vienna Convention applies.
of the Vienna Convention stipulates that, after a diplomat’s posting
ends and he leaves his country of accreditation, some of his privileges
and immunities would also end. While he would still enjoy immunity
for official acts, he would no longer enjoy immunity for private acts.
11 The State
Coroner has now found, among other things, that Dr Ionescu was not
in an official capacity at the time of the accident. The Romanian
Government has withdrawn him from Singapore. Therefore Dr Ionescu
does not now enjoy and cannot now claim immunity for the accident.
12 On 1 April 2010, a day after the Coroner announced his findings, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) preferred actions against Dr Ionescu and issued a warrant of arrest against him. On the same day, MFA summoned the Romanian Ambassador Mr Aurelian Neagu, who is resident in Tokyo, for a meeting in MFA and that meeting took place on 9 April 2010.
13 Ambassador Neagu was officially informed of the findings of the Coroner’s Inquiry and the charges against Dr Ionescu. MFA asked the Romanian Government to do all it could to persuade Dr Ionescu to return to Singapore to stand trial.
14 The Romanian Government’s consistent position has been that it cannot compel Dr Ionescu to return to Singapore because there is no Extradition Treaty between Romania and Singapore.
15 Mr Speaker Sir, it is a fact that there is no Extradition Treaty between Romania and Singapore. That is why we have asked the Romanian Government to do all it can to persuade Dr Ionescu to return to Singapore. We cannot demand that they arrest Dr Ionescu or compel him to return to Singapore.
16 We have
stressed to the Romanian authorities that although Dr Ionescu had been
suspended from the Romanian Foreign Ministry, he has not been dismissed
and is still formally an employee of the Romanian Government.
As such, the Romanian Government has a clear obligation to see that
justice is served. If it is not possible to persuade Dr Ionescu
to return to Singapore, we made clear that we expected the Romanian
Government to investigate and prosecute him under Romanian law.
Government has not disputed its obligations and has repeatedly assured
Singapore that it shares our interest in seeing that justice is served.
Neagu has informed us that the Romanian Prosecutor's Office had started
criminal investigations against Dr Ionescu on charges of "homicide
by negligence, leaving the scene of an accident and false statements".
But Ambassador Neagu explained that Romania would need to conduct its
own investigations in accordance with Romanian law.
19 To this
the Romanian Government had proposed the establishment of a joint
or Joint Technical Working Group to discuss the legal aspects of the
case and the evidence against Dr Ionescu. On 9 April 2010, we
informed the Ambassador that we agreed to this proposal.
20 In fact,
as early as 16 March 2010, the Minister for Law had assured his Romanian
counterpart of our willingness to cooperate with the Romanian Government
to the fullest extent possible under our law. However, we could
not then formally agree to their proposal for a joint commission before
the Coroner had given his findings on 31 March 2010. Singapore
could not prejudge the outcome of the Coroner’s Inquiry or the decision
of our Attorney-General’s Chambers to prefer charges against Dr Ionescu.
21 When MFA met Ambassador Neagu on 9 April 2010, he was given documents relevant to the case. In fact, these documents had been given to the Charge d’Affaires of the Romanian Embassy earlier during the course of the Coroner’s Inquiry, but the Charge d’Affaires told MFA he did not then understand they were for his government’s use. A certified copy of the full records of the Coroner’s Inquiry was given to the Romanian Embassy on 12 April 2010.
Government has been acting properly. It is natural that their
own legal authorities would want to conduct their own investigation,
study the documents we have given them and to discuss the evidence with
our legal authorities before coming to a decision on the criminal
that they have initiated against Dr Ionescu. We are now waiting
for the Romanian side to propose specific dates to begin these
Ambassador has told us that they are working on dates for a member of
their prosecutor’s office and a member of their police to visit
but there are certain administrative formalities that they had to
before doing so. We have to allow the Romanian authorities some
time to go through their own internal procedures.
24 On 23 April 2010, the Romanian Foreign Ministry sent us a TPN asserting that Dr Ionescu's diplomatic immunity "continues to subsist" and cites Article 39.2 of the Vienna Convention to support this contention. We are puzzled as it seems to imply that Romania is now claiming that Dr Ionescu was engaged in official duties at the time of the accident and we do not understand how this can possibly be the case. On the other hand, reports in the Romanian media suggest that some of Dr Ionescu's assets in Romania have been seized and that the Romanian police may be preparing to arrest him. We have not been able to confirm these media reports, but the Romanian police has informed INTERPOL that the competence to prosecute Dr Ionescu remains with Romania and that criminal proceedings against him have started in Romania for crimes committed in Singapore. With these conflicting accounts, the sooner the Romanian legal experts visit us to clarify the situation, exchange views and review the evidence with our legal experts, the better.
25 We have continually stressed to Ambassador Neagu that the Romanian Government should not underestimate the outrage that Singaporeans feel about this case and that justice must not only be served, but seen to be served and served expeditiously. If not, as the MFA statement has already made clear on 9 April 2010, bilateral relations will be harmed.
26 I believe that the Romanian Government understands this, and would not want to see the entire country's good name tarnished by the actions of one rogue diplomat. Romania is a member state of the EU which prides itself on its reputation as a community of values. Bucharest understands that more than Romania's own reputation is at stake and that it must live up to the EU’s high standards.
27 MFA has also repeatedly stressed to the Romanian authorities that it is not in their interest to allow Dr Ionescu to continue making wild statements against Singapore. They only further inflame public opinion against Romania because the average man in the street does not distinguish between Dr Ionescu and the country, particularly since he is still formally employed by the Romanian Government. However, the Romanian authorities have told us that as a Romanian citizen, Dr Ionescu has the right to say what he pleases and while they can advise him, they cannot compel him to be silent.
28 Mr Speaker
Sir, we have no reason to disbelieve what the Romanian authorities have
told us. The Romanian authorities have, quite properly, disassociated
the Romanian Government from Dr Ionescu’s statements.
29 Dr Ionescu's wild statements show that he is desperate. It is obvious from the comments of Romanian netizens that even his own countrymen do not believe him. Other diplomats in Singapore have told us that Dr Ionescu has disgraced the entire diplomatic corps, which is unfair. Dr Ionescu is not hurting Singapore. He is only hurting himself and his own country.
30 Despite the impatience we naturally feel, we must however be disciplined and carefully observe due process. We are a country that respects the law. This reputation is an invaluable asset that we must preserve by handling the case calmly and in accordance with our legal system and our international legal obligations.
31 Now that
the Romanian authorities have begun their criminal investigations of
Dr Ionescu, we must give them time to complete these investigations
and not prejudge the outcome. As I have said, the next step is
for the Romanian Government to propose dates for their prosecutor’s
office and police authorities to visit Singapore. We have told
the Romanian Ambassador that we expect this visit to take place by May
this year and that there should not be undue delay.
32 When I was
in the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square a few days ago, quite by chance,
both the Romanian Foreign Minister Mr Teodor Baconschi and myself were
waiting to see the Holy Father after his public audience. I asked if
I could have a quick word with him. He agreed immediately and we pulled
to one side and had a conversation. I stressed to him the anguish felt
by Singaporeans about this case. He immediately responded by saying
that he sympathized, and assured me that this matter is receiving the
highest attention by the Government and the full legal course was being
observed. He assured me that justice would be done. I told him that
we cherish the good relations between our two countries and I asked
for his agreement for me to make public our exchange in the Vatican.
He did not demur, and it was with his approval, therefore, that I issued
that statement alongside with my statement that I had met with the Pope.
So, from my conversation with Foreign Minister Baconschi, I felt
assured that the Romanian Government is taking this matter seriously,
but they are required to observe their due process because this matter
must go up to Romanian courts, and they too must follow procedures
MFA PRESS STATEMENT
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS GEORGE YEO'S VISIT
TO THE HOLY SEE
20 – 21 APRIL 2010
Minister George Yeo made an official visit to the Holy See from 20 - 21 April 2010. Minister Yeo had a short audience with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on 21 April 2010. Minister Yeo conveyed the good wishes of the President, Prime Minister and the people of
While in the
Minister Yeo also called on Archbishop Emeritus of Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law and Prelate of Opus Dei Monsignor Javier Echevarria, whom he met in
. . . . .
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
22 APRIL 2010
Although I had been to the Vatican a few times, this was my first as Foreign Minister. I had a good discussion with my counterpart, Secretary for External Relations, Archbishop Mamberti on 20 April 2010 . We discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations and also the Vatican's relations with China and Vietnam. I also visited the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. At the recommendation of former US Amb to Singapore, Steve Green, I called on Cardinal Bernard Law at one of Rome's great basilicas, Santa Maria Magiorre. He received me warmly and invited me to join him for Mass the following morning at his private chapel. In the evening, I hosted dinner at a Chinese restaurant for some of our Catholic religious working or studying in the Vatican - a diocesan priest, a Dominican brother and three Canossian nuns - most of whom I knew in Singapore.
Meeting with Archbishop Emeritus of Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law
Meeting with Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Mario Toso Meeting with Secretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti
Meeting with Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Mario Toso
Meeting with Secretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti