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Ambassador's Speech at National Day Reception 2023

H.E. Chee Hong Tat, Acting Minister for Transport, Members of Parliament Her E. Yeo Wang Ling and H.E. Saktiandi Supaat, Excellenceis, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends a všichni milí Češi, kteří jste tu dnes s námi,

We are gathered in almost the same place again after a year to celebrate our National Day. This year, however, the celebration has an even more festive dimension because we commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two republics.

We Czechs are rightly proud of this important anniversary, but our Singaporean friends always gently correct us that the Czech Republic split up from Czechoslovakia 30 years ago, and therefore the correct number for the duration of diplomatic relations is 30. They are right, of course, the Czech Republic is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but as you know, facts are facts and they rarely play a significant role in relationships, so we insist that we have been fond of you for half a century.

This is also reflected in the frequency of visits this year in Singapore - Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Transport Minister Martin Kupka, who had last April very fruitful meeting with H.E. Chee Hong Tat. I also have to mention the visit of the Deputy Speaker Jan Bartošek, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons Marek Ženíšek and nearly 40 business representatives. These visits were followed by two major business forums here in Singapore. The then Speaker of the Singapore Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin visited Prague in June and this visit was preceded by a well-attended business seminar as well. And only last week we had a strong Czech representation led by the Deputy Foreign Minister Jiří Kozák at the SICW.

Of course, we see our common future in even more intensive business cooperation and beyond the traditional products that are well known here as Czech crystal, represented today by Preciosa, Škoda car, beer Pilsner Urquelle, a very popular shoe manufacturer Bata, we are now expanding to the field of cyber and its security, the use of new technologies especially in medicine and agricultural production. With these goals in mind we are deepening contacts in the academic sphere. And not only that, new companies are opening their branches here, such as investment fond ARETE. The blossoming of our cooperation and its quality is greatly assisted by our European family, where the FreeTA between the EU and Singapore makes many tasks very easy, as well as our deepening cooperation in the area of digitalisation.

In my speech, I cannot avoid the very sad topic of war conflicts. As I did last year, I must again emphasise that their biggest victims are people who only want to live in peace in their homeland. It has been no different for a year and a half in Ukraine, and in recent days in Israel and Gaza. In all cases, these conflicts and war shake the world, and the world has an unchanging duty: to continue to fight against injustice, cruelty and crime and to help those who suffer from it.

In conclusion, I would like to share with you a story that has nothing to do with the big world of international affairs and power disputes, but its human dimension is of great value to us at the Czech Embassy. The story is called Natasha – a girl from Singapore. Natasha is a student in Rainbow Centre, an organisation which works to ensure that people with developmental disabilities, autism, for example, can experience the most valuable life possible and participate meaningfully in society.

(So) Natasha comes to our Embassy twice a week, helps us at the reception, shreds documents, makes copies and helps prepare refreshments for Embassy guests. It must be said here that she is at work before me, always greets me very nicely, and always with fresh coffee! And so she makes my day twice a week. Natasha is not here with us today, it would be difficult for her, too many strangers and noise, but I want to take this opportunity to thank Rainbow centre very much, and also Minds and nvpc, similarly oriented organisations for allowing us to work with them and so helping the Czech team in Singapore to have wonderful days.

At the very end, I would also like to say a big thank you to our sponsors - ARETE investment fund, Skoda auto, Preciosa Crystal Company and Conrad Centennial Hotel for their great help in preparing this celebration, and to my team, Czech and Singaporean colleagues, without whom I would be lost.