New era in Brunei-M'sia ties
By Aziz Idris

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak lauded the close cooperation both countries enjoy and stressed on the need to further enhance the ties through partnerships in various fields and put the countries on path to a never-ending friendship.

His Majesty last evening hosted a State Banquet at the Royal Banquet Hall of the Istana Nurul Iman for the Malaysian Prime Minister and Datin Paduka Sri Rosmah binti Mansor in honour of their three-day visit to the Sultanate.

Also present during the State Banquet were Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Mutadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Pg Anak Isteri Pg Anak Hjh Zariah, HRH Prince 'Abdul 'Azim, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik, HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen, HRH Princess 'Azemah Ni'matul Bolkiah and HRH Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bulqiah and other members of the royal family.

His Majesty in a titah highlighted that through the historic signing of the Exchange of Letters in March this year, the final delimitation of maritime boundaries between both countries have been resolved.

"The settlement of the maritime boundaries for both our countries, also proves the existence of our neighbourly spirit and healthy camaraderie between us.

"I believe that within this environment, we could move forward towards a new era, to further strengthen our cooperation and relations, as strategic partners. Towards this end, it is timely and appropriate for us to focus our efforts as partners to promote economic cooperation, especially in the field of trade, investment, energy and tourism.

"Our cooperation in these fields, could be further facilitated, with the existing bilateral mechanisms, in particular the annual consultations since 1997.

"I believe, this consultation is most beneficial, to assess and examine as well as further improve our cooperation," His Majesty added.

According to His Majesty, the cooperation in these fields is a result of the bilateral mechanism that has been maintained since the first Annual Consultation in 1997.

Through these discussions, officers from both countries have had the opportunity to work together in the Sabah Development Corridor, Sarawak Renewable Energy Corridor and the Malaysian Iskandar in East Malaysia.

This has also opened up specific sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries, Islamic banking and Halal products.

The Malaysian Prime Minister in his speech said that these developments would contribute towards strengthening the relationship and be a symbol of the never-ending friendship between both nations thriving in harmony as neighbouring countries.

"I am confident under His Majesty's reign the relationship will be further improved in the aspects of religion, culture and administration of both countries, while at the same time we can stand together, side by side, and move towards the future."

Earlier, His Majesty took the example of the involvement of a Malaysian company in the development of the Brunei National Housing Scheme as a welcome message to Malaysian investors to get involved in infrastructure projects in Brunei Darussalam.

With the signing of the Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation, which was held in the morning, His Majesty believed it would cerate a conducive environment for investment and trade between both countries.

"The transportation infrastructure should also be looked into to assist in the collaboration on Sabah and Sarawak Development Corridor, which is also in line with the vision of BIMP-EAGA to integrate the economy, as outlined in the Asean Charter," said His Majesty.

The economic crisis and the outbreak H1N1 pandemic has come as a double whammy for the tourism industry.

"We are both facing grave crises in the form of the economic crisis and financial uncertainty. It has affected many countries by threatening income and lose of jobs.

"This should spur us further within the framework of Asean to be more united in overcoming them.

"It can also be a platform for us to expedite our economic integration, as written in the Asean Charter that we have signed together.

In response, the Prime Minister of Malaysia said, "I praise the concerns of His Majesty towards his subjects and bear in mind we (Malaysia) have also undertaken steps to fight the spread of the pandemic."

His Majesty also took the opportunity to thank the 14,000 Malaysians for their continues support and assistance in the development sector. - Borneo Bulletin (6th August 2009)