Focus on people, challenges
Siti Hajar

A SMALL nation both in size and population, Brunei Darussalam continues to stand tall among the 10-member Asean nations. And this year, the country has led by example as the Chair of the 23rd Asean Summit that concluded yesterday.

A series of leaders, foreign ministers and senior officials meetings this year has left positive impressions of the Sultanate. The country has reached many milestones gaining commendation from all quarters for the work that has been done.

During a press conference with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam following the two-day summit and its related meetings with dialogue partners, His Majesty said chairing Asean was very positive.

“We have had a good year and our friends and partners have been very supportive,” he said. Although the torch has been passed to Myanmar, Brunei will continue to shine as a guiding light in all of Asean’s efforts.

“Our community-building effort is an ongoing process and will continue to be implemented well after 2015” that will, as is happening now, focus on improving all aspects of growth for a much stronger Asean.

“We have made, initiated and assessed in developing the Asean vision and mission beyond 2015 that will chart our future work,” added His Majesty.

Answering a question on Asean’s 2015 and beyond vision, His Majesty said among the goals of this endeavour is the doubling of Asean’s combined Gross Domestic Product from US$2.23 trillion to US$4.4 trillion whilst at the same time, halving the percentage of people living in poverty from 18.6 per cent to 9.3 per cent by the year 2030.

“This summit,” said His Majesty, “was built on this vision and we had the chance to share ideas with our external partners who, naturally, play a key role in our future.”

In emphasising that the declaration was designed to pave the way of what needs to be done to ready Asean beyond 2015 including challenges like climate change and competition for natural resources, His Majesty also said, “As we look to the future, it is important for us to focus on our people and the challenges that we face”, and what the region also needs to consider, continued the monarch, is ways in which the leaders will meet these challenges in order to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.

“Essentially, it comes down to,” eloquently said His Majesty, “building a truly peaceful centred Asean where our people are our future.”

Despite doubts that have been cast on Myanmar’s strength to carry the region forward as the 2015 deadline closes in, His Majesty remains staunch in his belief that the Asean Economic Community ambition scheduled to reach completion in about two years will be realised.

“I am confident that Asean is well on its way towards reaching its goals in 2015,” said His Majesty.

The ruler acknowledged that the next few years will be of particular importance in view of the region’s community-building roles, His Majesty explained that the leaders have come to the agreement that work needs to be intensified in a coordinated and timely manner, especially since these respective governments have committed themselves to meeting the needs of the community.

“Asean will continue to work closely to fulfil this commitment,” said the monarch.

“We appreciate the support of our friends and partners,” who will play a crucial role in reaching the region’s targets, with the remaining leg of the Asean Community Blueprint race standing at about 20 per cent.

“Our officials are continuing to encourage and engage all stakeholders” to ensure that the 2015 dream is realised.

Earlier in his opening titah, His Majesty had stated that the leaders have agreed that overall, “Asean is making substantive progress in realising an Asean Community by 2015, particularly with the implementation of many milestone initiatives,” and they had, collectively, reiterated their commitment in working closely to fulfil the remaining targets of the Asean Community that encompasses the cooperation in political-security, economy as well as socio-cultural.”

With regards to the South China Sea row, Brunei remains upbeat on the initiatives that have been implemented as parties involved look for a more peaceful way out of the issue.

Asked about the issue, His Majesty said, “Over the course of the year, we have closely consulted with our Asean colleagues and recently, there have been positive developments on the Code of Conduct (CoC).”

With the convening of respective government officials last month for the first formal discussion on the CoC, the monarch explained that those involved have agreed for the need of a joint working group to focus on implementing the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties (DoC) as well as the CoC.

“Both sides also agreed to have more relevant meetings next year,” said His Majesty, whilst at the same time, “Asean will continue to work on practical measures” including the establishing of hotlines of communication including one for search and rescue of persons and vessels in distress.

“It is hoped that such measures will help promote greater understanding and avoid incidences at sea” to secure a peaceful and stable region.

In June this year, Brunei’s armed forces was hailed for their organisation of the first Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise that witnessed the cooperation of over a dozen countries with hundreds of personnel, which His Majesty saw as “a landmark event under the Asean Defence Ministerial Meeting Plus process”.

Apart from the emphasis on intensifying disaster management cooperation in the region and not to forget Asean’s third pillar, His Majesty also said, “A number of practical initiatives have also been launched focusing on youth entrepreneurship and employment,” as discussed during the Asean Summit itself and explained in a declaration that was adopted in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Earlier, His Majesty said the leaders had stressed the importance of “ensuring that Asean programmes and projects are of practical benefit to the people” and the steps that have been taken thus far since last April’s 22ndAsean Summit have been productive, with special mention on easy travel within Asean for the people who call the region their home. - Borneo Bulletin (11 October 2013)