[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Thursday, November 08, 2007


His Excellency Minister for Education, Bapak Bambang Soedibyo
His Excellency Governor of Aceh, Bapak Irwandi Yusuf
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

1 This is my third visit to Aceh in as many years. In June 2005, I visited Meulaboh for the groundbreaking ceremony of the pier Singapore was building as part of our contribution to the reconstruction effort after the tsunami. I returned to Meulaboh in April 2006 to hand over the completed pier to the Meulaboh authorities. At that time, the Meulaboh pier was one of the first major reconstruction projects to be completed ahead of schedule and within budget. I am very happy to be back in Aceh again today, this time to participate in the opening of the Fajah Hidayah Boarding School.

2 Every time I visit Aceh, I am struck by the progress and the spirit and resilience of the people. It is wonderful that the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (or BRR) has already constructed some 90,000 houses, over 500 healthcare facilities, more than 800 schools, and over 1500 kilometres of roads. This is an extraordinary achievement and a tribute to the efforts of the BRR, the local government and the central government.

Group photo after dinner with the Director of the Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency, Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto (third from left)

3 The progress here is not confined to physical reconstruction alone. Aceh has also made remarkable progress on the political front. It is a great achievement that there was a smooth and successful direct election for Governor so soon after the signing of the Helsinki Peace Agreement in 2005. Governor Bapak Irwandi Yusuf has said that his priorities for Aceh include job creation, attracting foreign investments, protecting the environment, and reintegrating former GAM combatants into Aceh society. I would like to wish Bapak Irwandi and his government all the best in their efforts to achieve these goals.

4 As Indonesia’s close friend and neighbour, Singapore has tried to help in the reconstruction of Aceh within our capabilities. Apart from the Singapore Government, many Singapore NGOs and ordinary Singaporeans have made contributions in resources, time and effort. For instance, the Singapore Red Cross Society has restored the Madani Orphanage in Medan, which is home to some 1,000 orphans. The Singapore Red Cross Society is also currently involved in the refurbishment of the Meulaboh General Hospital. When completed, the hospital will provide better health services to the people of Meulaboh. Another one of our NGOs, Mercy Relief, helped refurbish the Muhammadiyah school and the Muhammadiyah Girls' and Boys' Orphanages.

5 Today, I am honoured to be here for the opening of the Fajar Hidayah Boarding School. This project symbolises the spirit of cooperation between our two countries. The school is the fruit of the close collaboration between the Singapore International Foundation (or SIF), its Indonesian partner Yayasan Fajar Hidayah, and the local government. SIF helped raise more than $5 million for the construction of the school. The local government donated half the plot of land the school is built on, and Yayasan Fajar Hidayah will run the school. This boarding school cum orphanage can eventually house up to 300 children and provide education for up to 600 day students. This school is a symbol of friendship between the people of Singapore and the people of Indonesia, in particular, the people of Aceh. I am delighted that this classroom building where we we are assembled today will be named the "Singapore-Aceh Learning Hub".

6 The SIF is one of Singapore’s most active and established NGOs, and SIF volunteers have been working in Indonesia over the last 15 years, since 1992. Over the years, SIF volunteers have participated in a wide range of projects in Indonesia, ranging from running medical courses, teaching information technology and languages, to social welfare and reconstruction projects. SIF also conducts programmes to acquaint Indonesians with Singaporeans, hosting exchanges of people from all walks of life. Through these activities, stronger ties are built between the peoples of Indonesia and Singapore. I hope that SIF will continue its good work in fostering better understanding and closer relations between our two peoples.

With Aceh Governor Bapak Irwandi Yusuf (third from left) after the launching ceremony.

7 Singapore and Indonesia are close neighbours. Our bilateral relations are generally very good. We cooperate in many areas including the development of Special Economic Zones in Batam, Bintan and Karimun, in preventing the spread of avian influenza, and in promoting sustainable land clearing practices in Jambi province. We also work closely to strengthen ASEAN. On many international issues, Singapore and Indonesia share identical positions.

With Indonesian Education Minister Bapak Bambang Soedibyo (extreme left) at the launch

Group photo with the Imam at the Black Mosque

8 I hope the Fajar Hidayah Boarding School will provide a good nurturing environment for the children, for they represent the future and hope of Aceh and Indonesia. Let this school also be a symbol of what the gotong royong between neighbours can achieve. Thank you.

Visiting a kindergarden built by Singapore International foundation and the Ayer Rajah-West Coast Citizens Consultative Committee (picture courtesy of Grace Ng)

9 Please allow me to say a few words in Bahasa Indonesia.
Yang terhormat, Bapak Bambang Soedibyo, Menteri Pendidikan Nasional, Republik Indonesia

Yang terhormat, Bapak Irwandi Yusuf, Gubernur Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam

Yang terhormat, Bapak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Ketua Badan Rekonstruksi dan Rehabilitasi (BRR)

Yang terhormat para tamu sekalian

10 Ini adalah kunjungan saya ke Aceh yang ketiga kali. Saya sangat senang dapat kembali ke Aceh, kali ini ikut meresmikan pembukaan Sekolah Fajar Hidayah.

11 Setiap kali saya berkunjung ke Aceh saya sangat kagum dengan kemajuan, semangat dan ketahanan warganya. Upaya rekonstruksi yang diselenggarakan hingga kini adalah suatu kinerja yang luar biasa dan penghormatan kepada BRR, pemerintah setempat dan pemerintah pusat.

12 Kemajuan yang saya maksud disini tidak hanya dalam rekonstruksi Aceh secara fisik. Akan tetapi Aceh telah menunjukkan suatu kemajuan yang sangat luar biasa dibidang politik. Ini dibuktikan dalam kesuksesan penyelenggaraan pilkada yang lancar yang diadakan tidak lama setelah penandatanganan Perjanjian Perdamaian Helzinki.

13 Sebagai sahabat dan tetangga yang sangat dekat dengan Indonesia, Singapura dengan segala kemampuannya telah membantu membangun Aceh kembali. Selain pemerintah Singapura, banyak organisasi Lembaga Swadaya Masyarakat (LSM), dan warga Singapura telah memberi sumbangsih mereka dalam bentuk sumber daya, waktu dan usaha mereka.

14 Hari ini saya mendapat kehormatan untuk hadir disini meresmikan Sekolah Fajar Hidayah. Proyek ini menandai semangat kerjasama antara kedua Negara. Sekolah ini adalah hasil dari kerjasama yang erat antara SIF, mitra Indonesianya, Yayasan Fajar Hidayah dan pemerintah setempat. Sekolah ini adalah lambang persahabatan antara rakyat Singapura dan Indonesia umumnya, dan khususnya warga Aceh.

15 Singapura dan Indonesia adalah tetangga dekat. Hubungan bilateral antara kedua negara secara umum sangat baik. Kita bekerjasama dalam berbagai bidang, termasuk pembangunan Daerah Ekonomi Khusus, Batam, Bintan dan Karimun, usaha pencegahan berkembangan flu burung, dan juga dalam mempromosikan praktek pembabatan lahan yang mendukung di Jambi. Kami juga berkerjasama dengan erat dalam memperkuat ASEAN. Dalam banyak bidang internasional, Indonesia dan Singapura mempunyai pandangan yang sama.

16 Saya berharap Sekolah Fajar Hidayah dapat memberikan lingkungan pengasuhan yang baik bagi siswa, karena anak-anak ini adalah masa depan dan harapan Aceh dan Indonesia. Mari kita tunjukkan sekolah ini sebagai simbol apa yang dapat dicapai dengan gotong royong antara kedua tetangga.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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