SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was conferred the highest honour in the state of Johor on Friday (May 6).
He received the First Class, Grand Commander of the Order, Dato’ Sri Paduka Mahkota Johor (SPMJ – Order of the Crown of Johor) from the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
His wife, Mdm Ho Ching, received the First Class, Grand Commander of the Order, Dato’ Sri Mulia Sultan Ibrahim Johor (SMIJ – Order of Sultan Ibrahim of Johor).
Mr Lee and Mdm Ho were in Johor on Friday morning at the invitation of Sultan Ibrahim, with the award investiture ceremony held at the Istana Besar.
Mdm Ho is the first Singaporean recipient of the SMIJ, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Thursday.
The Sultan also hosted an official brunch in honour of Mr Lee and Mdm Ho after the ceremony.
Sultan Ibrahim said Johor and Singapore have enjoyed a special relationship "since time immemorial".
"Today’s special investiture in honour of the Singapore Prime Minister is a tangible manifestation of our close friendship and deepening ties," the Sultan said in remarks to the Royal Press Office, published on his Facebook page.
“I wish to thank the Prime Minister for his continuing efforts to strengthen our close and strong relations."
Mr Lee said he was "deeply honoured" to receive the state's highest honour, adding that it was a pleasure to meet Sultan Ibrahim and his wife in Johor Bahru again after land borders were partially shut for almost two years.
"I look forward to hosting Sultan Ibrahim during his official visit to Singapore later this year," he said.
Accompanying the Prime Minister and Mdm Ho were Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, together with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Communications and Information ministries.
Also in attendance were members of the Johor royal family and the Royal Court, as well Johor state government representatives.
The Order of the Crown of Johor consists of the Sovereign and three designated classes of memberships, of which the SPMJ is the first class.
“Ordinary Members of the Order are invited from among Malays professing the religion of Islam and subjects of the Ruler and who have exhibited loyalty, virtues, and talents and have rendered invaluable service to the Sultan and state,” said the PMO, according to a description provided by the president of the council of the royal court Johor.
“Malays from other states, and other races whether subjects of the Ruler or otherwise and who meet the criteria may be invited as honorary members.”
Instituted in July 1886, members of the Order include former Prime Ministers of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, as well as former Singapore Law Minister E W Barker.
Former Prime Ministers of Malaysia Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin are also members of the order.
Since its inception, 237 people have been conferred the Order.
The Most Exalted Order of Sultan Ibrahim of Johor was instituted on Mar 30, 2015, and comprises the Sovereign and three designated classes of membership, of which the SMIJ is the first class.
Previous members conferred with the order include former Johor chief minister Mohamad Khaled Nordin and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.