It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the United Kingdom’s 2015 celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday.
2015 has been a special year for relations between the UK and Brunei Darussalam.
In February, we were honoured that His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan visited the UK to meet David Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s official country residence. After wide-ranging talks, both leaders renewed arrangements for the Brunei Garrison which has had a longstanding presence in Seria. Last month, Michael Fallon, reappointed as Defence Secretary in David Cameron’s new cabinet, visited Brunei to meet British Forces Brunei and to hold talks with Deputy Defence Minister Dato Mustappa.
Last week, His Majesty The Sultan was again in the UK as a special guest at a Gurkha Pageant and Dinner in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry. The occasion was part of year long celebrations to commemorate 200 years of Gurkha service to the British Crown.
The Gurkhas from Nepal have a special connection with both the UK and Brunei. This has been seen most recently in the strong government and public response to help those affected by the recent devastating earthquakes in Nepal. Practical assistance included the rapid despatch from here of a Bruneian medical team.
Later in the afternoon, I am pleased to say that soldiers from the Royal Gurkha Rifles at the Garrison will perform a traditional Gurkha Kukri Dance. The Kukri is the distinctive curved Nepali knife that is synonymous with the Gurkhas and Nepal.
This afternoon we hope to offer you some of the sights, sounds and flavours of the British summer. Around this room you will see a variety of images from the GREAT Britain campaign which showcases the very best of what Britain has to offer. We welcome the world to visit, study and do business with the UK. I am delighted that so many Bruneians choose to do all of these.
In the UK, at this time of the year, there is a rolling programme of sport to suit all tastes. Horseracing at Royal Ascot this week. Tennis at Wimbledon shortly. Rowing at the Henley Royal Regatta. The always eagerly awaited Cricket “Ashes” series of test matches between England and Australia. And in September and October, we will be proud to host the Rugby World Cup. Rugby is rapidly growing in popularity around the world, including in Brunei. We were therefore delighted that earlier this month league champions Saracens Rugby Football Club visited here and their top players held coaching sessions with Bruneian schools.
May I also draw your attention to the William Shakespeare banner. Over the next year we will be commemorating both here and around the world the 400th anniversary of the death of this great playwright and poet. His appeal and inspiration remain universal.
May I conclude by thanking those involved with the preparations for this afternoon’s reception, including my colleagues in the British High Commission, the Empire staff and Maria Grace Koh who sang the two anthems so beautifully. A special word of thanks also to our sponsors. Outside on display you will see cars representing some of the best of British design. The UK automotive industry is flourishing. The English city of Sunderland alone produces more cars annually than the whole of Italy. The cars outside are from Jaguar Land Rover, which is the UK’s largest car manufacturer, with all cars engineered and designed in the UK. Also from MINI, now owned by the BMW Group, which has its heritage firmly in the UK. The UK is the only country where BMW Group is represented by production plants for all three premium brands - MINI, BMW and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars – which together contribute £1.2 billion to the UK’s GDP. My warm thanks also to Supa Save and its partners who are generously providing our guests with famous British brands of tea, biscuits and chocolates for you to take away and sample.
Pehin Rahman, may I thank you for your kind presence this afternoon. I wish you and all our guests an enjoyable afternoon.