SINGAPORE – Six Singaporean Colombo Plan scholars received keys to the city of Newcastle on Monday (July 25) evening for their work in promoting the Australian city internationally.
Among them is former Cabinet minister Khaw Boon Wan, the chairman of SPH Media Trust.
The other five recipients are former Housing Board chief executive Cheong Koon Hean; former UOB managing director Bill Chua; Mr Tan Chin Nam, a former permanent secretary of the ministries of Manpower and Information, Communications and the Arts; former Singapore Food Industries chief executive Peter Tay Buan Huat; and Singapore’s current High Commissioner to Rwanda, Mr Jaspal Singh.
All six are alumni of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, and they were feted at an event held at the Australian High Commissioner’s residence near Stevens Road on Monday.
In a statement on Tuesday, the City of Newcastle said the six Singaporeans were formally inducted as ambassadors of the harbour city, which is a two-hour drive away from Sydney.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes was also at Monday’s event as part of a delegation from the Hunter region in Australia to strengthen international ties and explore economic development opportunities, the city added.
Ms Nelmes said: “Together, the Colombo scholars have many decades of experience and achievements spanning the political, business, housing, development and transport sectors, which have greatly benefited Singaporeans and citizens the world over.”
She added: “Each of them reflect fondly on their time spent in Newcastle and attribute many of their successes abroad to this enriching experience, and for that, the city of Newcastle acknowledges and celebrates their ongoing efforts to promote the city.”
Mr Khaw, who was Singapore’s coordinating minister for infrastructure and transport minister between 2015 and 2020, studied engineering at the University of Newcastle after he was offered a Colombo Plan scholarship in 1973.
In his final year in Australia, Mr Khaw also got married to his then girlfriend, before settling in Singapore.
Professor Cheong, who chairs the Centre for Liveable Cities under the Ministry of National Development, studied architecture in Newcastle.
Mr Chua, Mr Tan, Mr Tay and Mr Singh all have bachelor’s degrees in economics and engineering from the university.
Scholarships under the Colombo Plan, which was set up in 1951, were given to top students from former British colonies, including Singapore, to study in universities in Commonwealth countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Singapore stopped receiving the scholarship awards in 1988.
In 2014, a New Colombo Plan scholarship scheme was launched for Australian students to study, work and intern in one of 38 Asian countries, including Singapore.