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Cablegate: Singapore's Muslim Parliamentary Speaker Visits

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Singapore's highest ranking Muslim official, Speaker
of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi, made an official visit to
Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Kuwait from November
7 to 13. Abdullah's delegation included a cross-section of
ruling party MPs -- R. Ravindran (a Hindu of Indian descent),
Dr. Warren Lee (an ethnic Chinese Christian), and Zainudin
Nordin (a Malay/Muslim). The editor of Singapore's
Malay-language newspaper, Berita Harian, accompanied the
group to provide favorable press coverage and images,
Ravindran told poloffs. Berita Harian covered the visit
extensively, but downplayed the greater time spent in Israel
relative to the quick stops in the Palestinian Territories
and Kuwait. The paper prominently showed Abdullah laying a
wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat, but did not mention the
delegation's briefing on Israel's defensive wall. Because of
the balanced itinerary, the stop in Israel does not appear to
have generated any backlash in the region or among
Singapore's Muslim minority population, noted an MFA official.

2. (SBU) The trip was part of Singapore's efforts to "gain
greater understanding" of the Middle East, but did not yield
any concrete results. The GOS has offered to provide some
personnel training for Palestinian Authority officials, but
details are still being worked out, noted MFA. (On November
29, Singapore announced it would partially fund training
institutes in Qatar and Jordan to teach public administration
and vocational skills.) Singapore's Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) with Kuwait is stalled while Kuwait seeks approval from
the Gulf Cooperation Council to move forward with the
bilateral deal, according to Ravindran. In a follow-up
visit, the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament came to
Singapore November 24 to 27, the highest ranking Israeli
visitor since 1993.

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