As part of the Republic of Finland’s 100th Anniversary celebrations as an independent nation on 6 December 2017, the President of Finland, HE Sauli Niinistö took the opportunity to honour the most distinguished foreign diplomats for the work they have done to strengthen the Friendship between Finland and their own countries.
Singaporean diplomat, Ambassador Jayalekshmi (Jaya) Mohideen, on 21 November was awarded the Commander First Class of the Lion of Finland. She is the second Singaporean to be awarded such an honour. Ambassador-at-large, HE Tommy Koh was given the same honour in 2000.
Jaya Mohideen is the non-resident Ambassador to Finland since 2007. During her time the relations between the two Republics, both with a population of about 5.5 million inhabitants, have been strengthened in many ways. There were two State Visits by then Finland’s President Tarja Halonen to Singapore in 2008, followed by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen’s Official Visit in 2009. Singapore’s then President SR Nathan made a State Visit to Finland in 2010. Visits by Ministers and Official Delegations take place regularly both ways, writes the Embassy of Finland in Singapore.
“Today, bilateral relations are excellent. The number of Finnish companies in Singapore has grown from about 60 companies in 2007 to about 200 companies in 2017. Almost all of the leading Finnish companies have a presence in Singapore. Ambassador Mohideen plays an active role in promoting Singapore as a regional hub for Finnish companies and the numbers are constantly growing. Neste’s biodiesel refinery is the biggest single Finnish investment in Singapore, celebrating soon its 10th Anniversary of presence in Singapore. Nokia, Wärtsilä, Kone are all happy corporate citizens in Singapore. More and more start-ups are finding the start-up ecosystem in Singapore very lucrative and are starting their internationalization from here.
More Singaporean delegations are also visiting Finland. The areas for cooperation include digital technologies and the Smart Nation programme, Education, Health, Transport & Communications, and Design. Ambassador Mohideen has also advanced Singapore’s position as an Observer at the Arctic Council through intensive and regular collaboration with her Finnish colleagues dealing with Arctic subjects in Finland. The current Chair of the Arctic Council is held by Finland for 2017-2019.”
During this 100th Anniversary year, Finland has been brought to Singapore in many ways, through more than 60 different events with the aim of building bridges and increasing awareness of Finland in Singapore and vice versa. This has been made possible with the support of a team of Finnish volunteers living in Singapore.
Travel from Singapore to Finland has grown by thousands every year. Growth is also seen in numbers of students doing their exchange studies or internships in Finnish universities.
“I want to personally thank Ambassador Jaya for the close collaboration and friendly support she has shown towards Finland and me personally”, said Ambassador of Finland, Mrs Paula Parviainen at the decoration ceremony at the Finnish Residence. The event was honoured by the presence of Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, Dr Mohamed Maliki Bin Osman as the Guest-of-Honour.
Ambassador Mohideen has a remarkable career, as she became Singapore’s first female career Ambassador in 1989 when she was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the European Union, and the Holy See.
Ambassador Mohideen joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in 1976, to help lay the organisational foundations for a professional Foreign Service. She had by then spent nine years in the Administrative Service, working at the Defence Ministry and the Public Service Commission (PSC). Her job at MFA was to look after human resources, finance, properties, security, information technology, and the Singapore Cooperation Programme. Her PSC experience proved invaluable as she set out to recruit bright young men and women to be trained as Foreign Service officers.
The MFA assignment became an 18-year diplomatic career that was to see Jaya being awarded in 1993 as ‘Commandeur’ of the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Beatrix for her work in promoting trade and investment between Singapore and the Netherlands.
Apart from her diplomatic work, Jaya has made important contributions in the social services sector. She was from 2003 to 2009 President of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), which caters to the needs of intellectually disabled people. Jaya was also a member of the Steering Committee for the Enabling Masterplan, which charted the development of programmes and services for the disability sector for 2007 to 2011.
At the end of 1992, after her stint as Ambassador in Brussels, Jaya returned to Singapore where she was appointed MFA Deputy Secretary (Management). When Philip Yeo, then Chairman of the Economic Development Board he requested for Jaya to be seconded as
Later, as a Senior Consultant with the EDB Consulting Group (EDB), she provided consulting advice on behalf of Singapore to other Governments and international bodies such as the World Bank. She later served as the Non-Resident Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2000 to 2006 before becoming the Non-Resident Ambassador to Finland.
Source: Embassy of Finland Singapore
Photos Mr Thoo