Prince Mohamed, Hillary Clinton hail Brunei-US project
Hakim Hayat

Brunei Darussalam and the US are keen to enhance ties and look forward to many more years of strong friendship and partnership as they collaboratively launched a five-year English-training initiative towards the integration of Asean yesterday.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, called it "a very special event" in his sabda at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) for the inaugural launch of the programme with Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

"It is certainly one of the highlights and our government will be giving it all the support we can. It's a very exciting programme and will be a great help to us all - not only in Brunei, but all through our region," HRH said.

HRH added that Brunei is pleased to welcome the Secretary of State here and said the country had hoped to see her in 2000, during which Mrs Clinton's husband, former US President Bill Clinton, made a visit here along with their daughter Chelsea and late mother. "So we are very happy to welcome you at last," HRH said.

"Last week, I heard that people all over the South Pacific were calling out 'Hillary's here!' Well, now it's our turn. And it's a great pleasure to have you with us," HRH said.

HRH also offered many congratulations on all the hard work Mrs Clinton has done in the last four years and extended his great appreciation for the excellent relations with the US.

HRH added that not many people know that the US is Brunei's oldest international partner in modern times.

"We go back over 150 years together. So this gives me a chance to say thank you very much to our American friends for all the friendship and cooperation we have shared over so many years, especially of course, this present project," HRH said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton, starting her remark with the customary Malay greeting for Eid celebrations, "Selamat Hari Raya", stated that HRH has been an excellent partner in so many of the important initiatives that have been undertaken by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Government of Brunei and by successive US Presidents. She expressed her gratitude over the partnership and personal basis of friendship she has with the royal family.

"It is such a pleasure to be here with my friend and colleague, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah," she said.

On her family's last trip to Brunei in 2000, she said they had the most wonderful visit even though she was not able to come here then because she was running for US Senate. "But I have heard so often of what a fabulous time they had and I have been trying to get myself here ever since," she said.

Earlier, Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain bin Hj Hanafi, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Vice Chancellor of UBD, pointed out that UBD has various levels of exchanges amongst students and faculty between them and a number of American universities.

"Each year, we host at least 30 exchange students from the US. In partnership with the founding team of the highly successful New York City Leadership Academy for school principals we established the National School Leadership Programme." he said. "These forms of cooperation and exchanges have benefited our higher learning institutions bilaterally" he added.

Mrs Clinton in her remarks said they are delighted to have exchange students from the US to Brunei and hopes for more in the future.

She also placed hopes that more Bruneians will go to the US to study. "I heard from the US Embassy here that we have processed the 100th Bruneian student visa to study in the US," she added.

Mrs Clinton also said she looked forward to many more years of friendship and partnership between the US and Asean and in between US and Brunei in particular.

Before leaving UBD yesterday, Mrs Clinton told the Weekend Bulletin that she was so glad to be here. "Thank you for having me in your lovely country," she said.

She left for Russia yesterday afternoon to attend the APEC Meeting in Vladivostok after spending almost a week touring Asean countries, becoming the first top US diplomat to visit all 10 Asean member nations. - Borneo Bulletin (8 September 2012)