Prince upholds Asia's great leap forward

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade of Brunei Darussalam, addressing the 3rd Meeting of the Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED III) in Bangkok yesterday highlighted the great steps the group has taken forward in development.

Progress, in the Bruneian way is built on faith, His Royal Highness said in Brunei, the principle of faith calls on us to know one another as nations and people. It is the basic principle of any international community.

Very simply it means understanding and helping one another - building confidence modestly in small steps.

Recalling the first Dialogue five-and-a-half years ago in Singapore where a tone of positivism was set in, His Royal Highness said much needed confidence and optimism to move forward was built 'modestly and in small steps', and during the five years that passed between then and now, a great deal has happened.

His Royal Highness also highlighted the relevance of AMED as a dialogue that plays an important role in helping all members to understand better each other's ways of dealing with current challenges.

In a 'sabda', His Royal Highness said: "Mr Chairman (Thailand's Minister of Foreign Affairs), I well remember our first session five-and-a-half years ago in Singapore and I especially remember the wonderfully positive address given by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

"In it, he welcomed the many friends who had come so far to join us in Southeast Asia. He expressed our warmest thanks for the spirit in which they had come and, above all, he set a tone of quiet confidence and optimism.

"At the third gathering, I echo that welcome and that spirit and I also, still share the simple basic idea behind our dialogue.

"In Brunei Darussalam, it is an article of faith. It calls on us to know one another as nations and people. It is the basic principle of any international community.

"Very simply, it means understanding and helping one another.

"The way to do this, we believe, is what we said at our first two meetings: Modestly and in small steps. The modest aim? To build confidence. And the small steps? Those that will help our people benefit from that shared confidence.

"However, when we said that, Mr Chairman, it was over five years ago. Back then, we were 7,000 miles apart in 50 different countries.

"But five years is a long time these days and, since then, an awful lot has happened.

"We have set up far-reaching economic partnerships. We have seen major social and cultural events. We have shared common security problems, common development goals and common environmental concerns. We have offered global leadership in environmental technology; in sustainable energy; in Information Technology; the arts and sciences; economic and financial management; and, especially, in the vital search for regional and international peace, justice and security.

"Our people have sat at home this year and watched amazing events like the recent magnificent Asian Games in Guangzhou and the earlier Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And just this month, they saw our friends in Qatar chosen to host to 2022 World Cup.

"These are all astonishing steps forward, and our people are seeing that they are not coming from America and Europe nor anywhere far away.

"They are coming from here, in what they are beginning to call - 'our part of the world'.

"It all suggests that the old world's divisions are history now. It says that we are no longer defined by political geography, neither north, south, west or east, nor, in the 19th century term, the 'Middle East'.

"The 7,000 miles is an air trip, the 50 different countries are partners and they are moving in the same direction. In other words, we are taking major steps and we have taken them at an astonishing speed.

"We are all rightly proud of this and we congratulate our experts, our planners, our scientists, athletes, artists, builders and designers who have brought all this about.

"But ...

"and ... this is a very big 'but' ...

"... there is a danger.

"These great sweeping advances can leave our people behind. They will certainly have pride in the achievements I have mentioned, but our ordinary people can also feel that they are not part of it and this brings a lack of personal confidence. It can also cause fear, sometimes dangerous fear and threats to social security.

"So, in spite of all the progress that we have seen, I strongly feel that the kind of small, modest steps we discussed in Singapore and in Sharm el-Sheikh are still very much needed.

"In fact, I think they are even more relevant now than they were five years ago. These are the ones that can help give our people confidence. By this, I mean the confidence they need in order to play a full part in 21st century life, on their own terms.

"That was why I was delighted to receive my invitation to attend the dialogue this year. It allows me the chance to thank all our colleagues who have done so much to inspire our people and give them confidence in the future. It allows us all to hear from each other again. It helps us to understand even more about the way each of us is dealing with the enormous new challenges we all share today.

"Even more than that, it means we can again plan the essential small steps we can take together."

Meanwhile, His Royal Highness expressed his deepest respects and congratulations to His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the Royal Thai Government and the people of the Kingdom of Thailand on last week's 83rd anniversary of His Majesty's birthday.

At the same time, His Royal Highness congratulated the Chairman on his own birthday yesterday.

"I'm sure the best present we can offer you will be to have a very successful meeting here in Bangkok," said His Royal Highness.

His Royal Highness also expressed his appreciation to Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his fine opening address and for the country's generous hospitality.

"My thanks also, Chairman to you and your staff for all the excellent arrangements made for us and lastly, my warmest thanks again to our colleagues from Egypt for all the goodwill and friendship we shared in Sharm el-Sheikh and for the work they have done to strengthen the dialogue," His Royal Highness said. - Borneo Bulletin (16th December 2010)