Sultan addresses Bali Democracy Forum
Titah by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the Bali Democracy Forum

Mr President,

I congratulate you most warmly, on convening this forum and I am very pleased to add my own greetings and best wishes to all our colleagues.

In many ways, your letter of invitation came as no surprise. We all have enormous admiration for the way you have brought all your people together as a driving force for progress in our region. This is especially so in the way you have so often taken the lead in our efforts to meet modern challenges successfully.

In the last few years, these have ranged from international security and cultural and religious tolerance to economic development and the effects of natural disasters. Every effort we have made as a region has had not only your support but also your initiative and dedication.

This kind of leadership is special, Mr President.

It does not involve prescribing solutions to others. It seeks to bring others together - to share experiences; to suggest ways forward; and to promote the peace and understanding that comes from working together towards common objectives.

So, it is a privilege to join you here and I thank you very much indeed for the personal invitation.

Mr President,

Your letter inviting us opened by describing, "a world beset by an array of crises". I obviously have no problem with this basic description. I do not think any of us have or there would not be any need for this forum.

I would, however, like to suggest that the words require a context. I say this because there has never been a time when the world was not beset by an "array of crises". In Brunei, our system of government has lived through seven hundred years of these, almost non-stop!

In fact, as we all know, crisis is why government exists. This is why I believe we need to determine the context in which we are currently working as governments.

I do not see it as pessimistic. In some ways, a case could be made for there being far fewer crises now than Mankind has ever experienced. Any brief survey of historical statistics in health, education, life expectancy, and material prosperity would provide plenty of reasons to say that Mankind has done remarkably well so far.

In other words, I mean that the current crises may be new in character but, in many ways, they are the results of the success the world has had in solving earlier crises. The most dramatic result of this has been the quadrupling of the world's population over the past one hundred years.

That fact and the current food and energy problems, the man-made aspects of climate change and the present financial crisis would seem to fit into that pattern of human development. They are its logical extension.

So, as such, they are only crises in the extent to which we are unable to deal with them. This, I believe, is the positive context in which they have to be placed. There are, rightly, many cries of alarm. Their warnings are necessary and have to be heeded and evaluated.

This, however, does not mean that governments should be alarmist. As I said, we exist to deal with crisis. Therefore, we have to be positive and I see your initiative here, Mr President, as a most welcome call to us all to be exactly that.

To me, that says one thing about our current problems. Globalisation is not their cause. It is their solution. It provides chances like this for us to meet, discuss and devise ways of working together to meet the latest new challenges successfully and to do this as governments.

Mr President,

We meet many different systems of government and they go by many different names. There is, however, one idea that links us all, I feel. This is what has always defined our system in Brunei. It is complex and closely bound up in its own very old history but, in English, it can be defined as a "Social Contract".

Like all contracts in any system, if it is maintained, we all succeed. If it lapses, we all suffer. In that sense, I believe we join all other governments here in our belief in the term frequently used in international affairs and at the United Nations - good governance.

Perhaps, above all else right now, this means ensuring that we all meet the targets set in the Millennium Goals. In Brunei, we place a priority on this task. We see it as crucial in our efforts as a government to fulfil our prime responsibility to give our people confidence in the future.

For us this means providing maximum health care to all; good education from early childhood onwards; easy personal access to government and its departments and agencies; the rule of law applying equally to everyone and respect for each individual, each family and each community, whatever their background, culture or faith.

At the same time, it means economic development in the form of employment, jobs, careers and future prospects.

All these are what we are trying to achieve in Brunei through our thirty-year national vision or "wawasan", and its related projects and programmes.

The starting point, we believe, is the Millennium Goals. The end result, we hope, will be a strong regional and world view on the part of our people, one which promotes respect and understanding for every other country and government.

This is the basis on which we seek to play our part in the affairs of our region and the international organisations to which we belong. It is on that basis, also, that I am delighted to accept your kind invitation here.

I assure you again that my government and people join me in a commitment to working as closely as possible with the governments attending this forum.

We will offer whatever we can to help address the concerns that we all share and make sure that our region and our part of the world can look forward to the future in peace, security and confidence.

Thank you.

- Borneo Bulletin (11th Dec 2008)