Focus on community building through collective leadership
Danial Norjidi in Phnom Penh

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday said Asean has enjoyed peace, security and stability for many years through the role in driving regional integration and bringing economic prosperity to the region.

Asean, said the monarch, continues to be confronted with various challenges such as the ongoing territorial disputes; competing initiatives in the Asia-Pacific; and the challenges in managing the interests of the dialogue partners, which in turn calls on the credibility of Asean and its relevance.

His Majesty said this in a titah at the 21st Asean Summit Retreat Session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

His Majesty consented to attend the Opening Ceremony of the 21st Asean Summit; the Plenary Session; Signing Ceremony of the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the Asean Human Rights Declaration; the Meeting with Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC); and the Retreat Session of the 21st Asean Summit yesterday.

His Majesty further mentioned that the Asean leaders need to show collective leadership and to engage partners constructively with the existing mechanisms by using their strengths and capabilities to assist Asean realise its community building efforts.

His Majesty then added that Asean leaders have to continue to take lead in the agenda settings and priorities in the region.

These are the matters that Asean should focus on and will be continued during the chairmanship, said His Majesty, expressing his hope to have the support from the leaders and partners to ensure Asean's central role and to address the people's needs.

At the end of the titah, His Majesty expressed his deep concern over the latest development in the Gaza Strip, stating that the conflict ought to be resolved peacefully and that there is a need to work with the international community to address the situation urgently and help to find a lasting and durable solution.

Earlier, during the Plenary Session, His Majesty said it was important to maintain the momentum to strengthen the community building efforts and enhance engagement with Asean dialogue partners.

The monarch added that it is vital to implement the Asean Economic Community (AEC) commitments to achieve the targets by 2015 and create a more attractive, competitive and stable region.

This, His Majesty said, will show the commitment to bring economic prosperity and set a conducive environment for Asean to implement its goals in other pillars towards great political and social stability. The monarch also added that, to complement this, Asean needs to ensure that the connectivity work would contribute in creating more linkages and bringing the people closer together.

In the morning, His Majesty attended the opening ceremony, which was held at the Peace Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia and carries the theme 'One Community, One Destiny'.

The opening ceremony was officiated by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and was also attended by all Asean leaders as well as representatives of other nations and their delegations.

After the opening ceremony, His Majesty joined other Asean leaders for a group photo session, before attending the Plenary Session where the Asean leaders were invited to deliver their statements.

His Majesty in the titah expressed his appreciation to the people and government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for their warm welcome and hospitality.

His Majesty also expressed his condolences to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and the royal family and also to the government and people of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the passing of King Father Norodom Sihanouk last month.

His Majesty also said that over the past decades, Asean has continued to benefit from cooperation with the dialogue partners, and expressed his belief that it is timely to review the relationship and to try to maximise the collaboration to support Asean's community building efforts.

The summit, added the monarch, is a good opportunity to coordinate the approach effectively and efficiently and to try to enhance cooperation for mutual benefit. One way is to streamline the meetings as there is a need to focus on more strategic discussions. At the first summit, it is to look at the progress of the community building efforts and internal matters whereas the second summit is to focus on the work with the dialogue partners.

His Majesty stated that it is important to have an efficient secretariat to support the work and to make most of the dialogue partners' contributions especially in capacity building and strengthening of resources. The Asean Secretary-General's continued efforts are crucial, His Majesty said.

At the end of the titah, His Majesty expressed his appreciation to Dr Surin Pitsuwan, who will be completing his term as the Asean Secretary-General, for his valuable contributions for the past five years in promoting Asean.

His Majesty also expressed his support to Le Luong Minh as the incoming Secretary-General of Asean and hoped he would be able to carry Asean's vision forward and ensure the realisation of the Asean Community by 2015.

After the session, His Majesty proceeded for the Signing Ceremony on Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the Asean Human Rights Declaration with other Asean leaders. The ceremony was held at the Nuon Srey Hall of the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

The monarch, along with other Asean leaders, then attended the luncheon hosted by Hun Sen, before attending a meeting with the Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

After the meeting, His Majesty along with other Asean leaders proceeded to the Champei Room of the Peace Palace for the 21st Asean Summit Retreat Session.

Accompanying His Majesty to the 21st Asean Summit and other related meetings were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office; and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; and Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (R) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office as well as other senior officials. - Borneo Bulletin (19 November 2012)