SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Jan 19) expressed surprise at the news of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as he described her as a “steadfast friend” to Singapore.
Ms Ardern announced her resignation on Thursday, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” for another four years in office. She will be stepping down no later than Feb 7.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee wrote that he had met Ms Ardern “many times, in person and online and at international fora”.
“She has shown great dedication and leadership, particularly in steering her country through crises such as the Christchurch attack and COVID-19,” he said.
“PM Ardern and I kept in touch regularly during the pandemic to share experiences and exchange notes, and ensure that supply lines stayed open between our countries.”
Mr Lee highlighted Ms Ardern’s first official visit to Singapore in 2019, where both countries “upgraded (their) excellent ties” with the establishment of the SG-NZ Enhanced Partnership.
“We didn’t meet face-to-face for two years after that because of the pandemic, but last April, as we started to re-open borders, she visited again, and we expanded the EP to include cooperation in climate change and the green economy,” he said.
Mr Lee thanked Ms Ardern for her “strong partnership, support and good humour” in his post.
“She is an inspiration to many, and I wish her and her family all the best! Mā te wā!” he said, using the Maori phrase for “see you later”.
New Zealand will choose its next prime minister in a general election on Oct 14. Ms Ardern said she would continue to serve as an electorate MP until then.
On Sunday, her Labour Party votes for a new leader who will be prime minister until the election.