Call to boost investor confidence
By Azlan Othman

His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, said Asean Law Ministers can play a substantive role in the provision and dissemination of predictable laws, especially in the area of civil and commercial matters amid the current global financial crisis.

Stating that it will be central in ensuring an investment conducive environment, His Royal Highness in his sabda at the opening ceremony of the 7th Asean Law Ministers meeting yesterday said the financial crisis that is currently gripping the world is a great cause of concern.

It is clear that investor confidence has been greatly impaired and there are lessons that we must take to heart from this crisis.

"For each of us in Asean, foreign investment is a crucial contributor to economic development. We have to ensure that even in this current climate of investor uncertainty, Asean will still be capable in attracting investors to the region.

"One of the main considerations is the existence of an investor-friendly, legal and regulatory environment where investments will be protected in accordance to domestic and international rules and regulations."

HRH added that this can be also become a key area where a gradual process of harmonisation can be subject to greater scrutiny by the Asean Law Ministers as a further step towards Asean integration.

"It is now 22 years since our Law Ministers first met in Bali, to open for greater cooperative initiatives in the legal field. Since then, there have been many substantive achievements in law making and development of our legal systems.

"Foremost amongst these achievements has been the creation and signing of the Asean Charter. This Charter consolidates Asean's status as a rules-based inter-governmental organisation committed to common goals, particularly towards Asean integration.

"In this regard, I see an instrumental role for the Asean Law Ministers in working to ensure that the various legal systems in Asean are able to meet the broad requirements of the Charter. This in itself presents a considerable challenge for each member to overcome," said the Crown Prince.

"There have also been many other new challenges that our legal systems have had to contend with. Most significant amongst these challenges has been the need to continue providing a safe and secure environment for all our people.

"Asean has therefore achieved some very significant milestones, with the signing of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters among Like Minded States, and the signing of the Asean Convention on Counter-Terrorism.

"The signing of these instruments reiterates Asean's firm commitment to legal cooperation in combating the global security issues of terrorism and transnational crime.

"In particular, the signing of the Asean Convention on Counter-Terrorism is an important benchmark in Asean's efforts to work together closely, in a more integrated manner to detect, prevent and combat terrorism," HRH added.

"The government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam fully supports and is committed to the principles and objectives of the Convention.

"Our laws and legal systems play an integral part in developing Asean and realising the Asean Community by 2015.

"Within Asean, there is a great diversity in the constitutional and legal systems that each of us have developed over the years, and we will have to address the challenges that this diversity poses as we seek to achieve levels of regional integration.

"Along with these challenges, I also see strengths and opportunities. Diversity means that we have each developed different ways to achieve common goals.

"We should look to each other's successes, and learn from each other's best practices, so that we may better understand how to develop a legal system that complements each other and strengthen Asean as a region," said HRH the Crown Prince.

Earlier, Attorney General and Chairperson of the 7th Asean Law Ministers meeting (ALAWMM), Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi said the meeting was mandated, among others to review and guide the work of the Asean Senior Law officials in the three aspects of legal cooperation, namely exchange of legal materials, judicial cooperation and legal education and research.

Over the years, the meeting has endorsed various recommendations by the Asean Senior Law Officials, which have been central to the achievement of the legal cooperation within Asean. The Asean Law Ministers meeting will continue to guide and review the work of Asean Senior Law officials.

Brunei is given the privilege to host the two-day ALAWMM meeting for the first time. The meeting is regarded as one of the Asean Sectoral Ministerial Bodies under the Asean Charter and generally attended by Ministers of Justice, Ministers of Law and Attorneys-General of Asean member countries.

The 7th ALAWMM meeting was preceded by the 12th Asean Senior Law Officials meeting held on Oct 17 and 18 at the Empire Hotel and Country Club. - Borneo Bulletin (21st Oct 2008)