Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 

Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and members of his cabinet visit Madinah on Oct. 20, 2023. (Singapore PM’s Office)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 

Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 
  • Countries agreed to strengthen cooperation during Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong’s visit in October  
  • Big delegation accompanying the PM showed ‘high level of interest’ in Saudi Arabia, envoy says 

SINGAPORE: Singaporean businesses are looking to benefit from increasing cooperation with Saudi Arabia following a series of new agreements under their recently forged strategic partnership. 

The two countries agreed to strengthen relations in October, during an official visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Riyadh and his meetings with Saudi leadership. 

Coinciding with Lee’s trip was the arrival of a delegation of ministers and business leaders in the Kingdom for a meeting of the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee 

“The large number of ministers and officials as well as the accompanying business delegation by the Singapore Business Federation showed the high level of interest and engagement by Singapore with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Abdullah Mohammed Al-Madhi, the Saudi ambassador to Singapore, told Arab News earlier this week. 

“We were very honored to be able to welcome and show them many sectors of the Saudi economy. A very special program was prepared for Prime Minister Lee and his delegation. They included several non-traditional stops outside Riyadh that can also present business opportunities, such as Tabuk, Dammam and NEOM.” 

During the trip, the Singaporean premier and his top-level delegation — comprising Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, and Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli — made a historic trip to Madinah. 

It was Lee’s first visit to the second-holiest city in Islam after Makkah. 

“Prime Minister Lee was also able to share in our culture and heritage by visiting the culturally important sites around the city of Madinah to view the Prophet’s Mosque and Quba Mosque — thought to be the first mosque in the world. Then the delegation went on to AlUla for many other heritage sites,” Al-Madhi said. 

With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Singaporean prime minister agreeing to upgrade relations to a strategic partnership, Singaporean businesses see opportunities likely to come from the move.  

“This allows for the deepening and expansion of mutually beneficial relations in all fields, enhancing investment, trade and economic cooperation,” Shamsher Zaman, chairman of the Middle East Business Group at the Singapore Business Federation, told Arab News. 

“Both countries stand to benefit from the exchange of opportunities and expertise between Singapore and Saudi Arabian companies in areas highlighted such as trade and investment, green energy, digital economy, and public sector development.” 

The Singapore Business Federation led a group of 32 business leaders to witness the developments and opportunities in Saudi Arabia first-hand. 

“The vibrant transformation we witness in Saudi Arabia today is driven by the nation’s young agents of change, with 63 percent of its population under the age of 30 years old. The rapid pace of development can be seen and experienced throughout Saudi Arabia, as the country is rapidly building towards Vision 2030,” Zaman said. 

“The transformation is predicated on developing its social and education sectors, and Singapore is a key partner in working together towards developing the human capital and its education sector, built upon Singapore’s experience and expertise in these fields. We are increasingly seeing Singaporean companies in education and human capital development, which are keen to bring expertise to Saudi Arabia and be a part of this transformation.” 

Seven memoranda of understanding were signed to facilitate investment opportunities during the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee’s Oct. 17 meeting, reflecting the “continuous commitment of both countries, paving the way for more future collaborations to come,” Zaman said. 

“The recent, third, SSJC meeting reaffirms the strong bilateral relations between both countries and underscores the benefits of working together in areas of mutual interests in connectivity, digital economy and innovation, as well as energy and industry,” he added. 


Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
  • Cyprus has in recent months been staging ground for collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to Gaza
  • Aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened

NICOSIA: Cyprus’ defense minister said Wednesday that plans are in motion to build a major naval base on the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast capable of hosting large ships from European Union countries and other nations to carry out a variety of missions including humanitarian aid deliveries to the tumultuous Middle East region.
Vasilis Palmas told reporters that Cyprus’ recently elevated geopolitical role as the European Union’s closest member to the Middle East warrants the building of infrastructure that can support policies geared toward the region.
Cyprus has in recent months been the staging ground for the collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Gaza. The aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened. Last year, Cyprus served as a waystation for third-country nationals evacuated from Sudan.
Palmas said the construction of the base would “contribute decisively” to policy implementation in the region.
He said Greece is contributing technical know-how to the project, while actual construction will be guided by the findings of an expert study that will be completed in the next few days.
The naval base will be built on an existing naval installation some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the coastal town of Limassol, which in 2011 was the site of a huge explosion of 480 tons of seized Iranian gunpowder that killed 13 people, knocked out Cyprus’ main power station and stirred up a political crisis.


190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts
Updated 17 July 2024
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190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

ABU DHABI: The UAE has succeeded in securing the exchange of 190 prisoners of war between Russian and Ukraine, state news agency WAM has reported.

The UAE now secured the release of 1,558 captives with its sixth successful mediation effort between the warring parties, less than one month after the previous exchange process, the report added.

“These efforts reflect the UAE’s commitment to being a reliable mediator supporting diplomacy to resolve the crisis between the two countries,” a statement for the UAE’s foreign ministry said.

The UAE was committed to ‘continuing all efforts and initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, stressing the importance of dialogue, and de-escalation, as the only ways to resolve the conflict, and for mitigating its humanitarian repercussions,’ it added.

The UAE also managed to negotiate the exchange of two prisoners between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2022.


Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the Taliban's deputy head of mission on Wednesday and urged their administration to take action against Afghanistan-based militant groups that Islamabad says attacked a military base this week.
Militants attacked the base in Bannu in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing eight Pakistani security force members.


Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
  • Students say seven killed in overnight clashes with police, government supporters
  • They protest reservation of 30 percent of government jobs for families of 1971 war fighters

DHAKA: Bangladesh indefinitely closed all educational institutions on Wednesday following deadly clashes between students and police, as campus protests against job quotas spread across the country.

Students have been demonstrating at campuses since early July against the government’s quota system, in which 30 percent of public service jobs are reserved for the families of those who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The students demand the system’s reform and more just distribution of the well-paid public service jobs.

The protests turned violent on Sunday, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undermined the cause by suggesting that the demonstrators supported the “razakars,” or those who had collaborated with the Pakistani military — an enemy occupying force — during the 1971 war.

Students denounced the comparison and more of them joined the rallies, where they clashed with members of the youth wing of Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and security forces.

As violence escalated and turned deadly on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh announced in separate notifications that all secondary educational institutions, universities and medical colleges across the country would remain closed “until further notice” and “for the safety of the students.”

According to local media reports at least six people, including four students, were killed and 400 injured when the clashes broke out in Dhaka, Chottogram, Rajshahi and Rangpur.

Protesters estimate that the actual numbers are even higher.

“More than 1,000 of our protesters were injured during the clashes. Seven died, including one bystander. Just now, we held funeral prayers in absentia for our fellows who lost their lives,” said Mohammad Nahid Islam, coordinator of the Students Against Discrimination group, which is part of the protests in Dhaka.

“Today, police attacked protesting students at the Dhaka University campus with a stun grenade and tear gas shells. Many of our female students became sick and injured ... We are concerned about our security.”

Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Bangladesh Police did not respond to requests for comment.


Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams
Updated 17 July 2024
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Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

MANILA: Women have topped this year’s Shariah Bar examinations in the Philippines, with Supreme Court data showing that female examinees not only obtained the best score but also had the highest passing rate.

Shariah, or Islamic law, is partially implemented in the Philippines, applicable only to the Muslim community — about 10 percent of the 120 million of the country’s predominantly Catholic population.

A total of 853 candidates took part in the Shariah Bar exam in April and May, and 183 passed it. More than half of those who passed the exams were women, nine of whom were among the top 10 scorers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh announced the results on Tuesday, saying that “62.3 percent of the total passers are female. I’m very happy to announce that.”

This year’s exam also saw the “largest number of Shariah Bar examinees we have had in nearly 40 years,” Singh said.

“This is to strengthen and make the Shariah justice system more accessible by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shariah councilors.”

Separate from the regular Bar tests for aspiring lawyers, the Shariah Bar exams are the professional licensure examination covering Islamic law for Shariah court councilor candidates.

Established under the 1977 Code of Muslim Personal Laws, the Islamic law courts are under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as other parts of the southern Mindanao island, which have significant Muslim populations.

The courts have application over personal status law, including marriage, as well as financial laws and halal certification.

The Supreme Court said last year that in its goal to “strengthen the Shariah justice system” under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, it was studying the possibility of expanding the mandate of Islamic courts to cover also criminal and commercial cases.