Brunei-Dutch ties go beyond oil and gas
Siti Hajar

THE historic first State Visit of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has been described by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as a move forward in advancing official warm relations enjoyed between the two nations since the Sultanate gained independence almost three decades ago.

In delivering a titah during the Royal Banquet at the Istana Nurul Iman in conjunction with Her Majesty’s three-day state visit to the Abode of Peace, the monarch said, “Your Majesty’s visit not only brings our two Royal Households closer, but will also further strengthen the close links of friendship and cooperation between our two governments and people.”

Despite only establishing diplomatic ties in 1984 between the Netherlands and Brunei, His Majesty noted that the history between the Dutch and Bruneians has been long-standing since the nation first struck oil in 1929 that has resulted in the continued interaction between the people from both countries and are therefore no strangers to one another, expressed His Majesty.

“From there, our cooperation has gone beyond oil and gas and further expanded to new fields including health and culture,” the monarch shared.

His Majesty also listed the extended portfolio between the Netherlands and Brunei including the establishment of Brunei’s National Health Promotion Centre in 2008 by the Royal Dutch Shell and the Ministry of Health as well as the recently discussed cultural collaboration, which will soon result in exchanges involving the display of historical exhibits and the sharing of expertise.

“I believe that with this cooperation and with your historical links with our region, we will be better able to show our shared heritage to the world.

“Your visit will encourage more exchanges and cooperation between Brunei and the Netherlands in various fields,” continued His Majesty, “and it marks an important milestone in our bilateral relationship.”

On a much bigger platform that has the potential to contribute to a global cause, His Majesty highlighted that with a shared membership and close working relationships with various international organisations and regional groupings including the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the participation of the Netherlands and Brunei offers the opportunity to showcase that both nations have much to contribute to the complex and diverse world we all share.

In her return speech, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix also expressed hopes that the relationship between the two nations will continue to flourish for many years to come as she expressed her appreciation with the hospitality showered upon the Netherlands royal entourage.

Her Majesty also underscored the presence of the oil giant Shell in Brunei that does not solely concentrate on black gold production but has in sight economic diversification as part of Brunei’s Vision 2035.

“It is gratifying that Brunei and Shell are continuing to work together in this new phase of development as in the past,” Her Majesty said and further elaborated that this form of collaboration is a clear sign of the quality of their relationship and the great confidence they have in each other.

With the Abode of Peace being the Chair for Asean this year, Her Majesty commended Brunei’s active approach within the association and expressed interest to work towards the further strengthening of relations between the European Union and Asean whilst exploring other opportunities with Brunei during its tenure as the Asean chair.

As Her Majesty Queen Beatrix opened her speech expressing awe at Brunei’s green heritage, Her Majesty described the country’s natural prestige as “riches that cannot be expressed in terms of financial value”.

“Your country has the mysterious rainforest where new plants and animal species are still being discovered every month. Like a magnificent green temple, the tropical rainforest covers a large portion of Brunei.

“The Netherlands is following with great interest and admiration Brunei’s efforts to manage the wealth of resources nature has bestowed upon it and to preserve these treasures for future generations. In so doing, you have chosen the path of cooperation and sustainable economic development and among those efforts include the trilateral agreement between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative.

“This is not only a question of nature conservation but sound water management and better prospects for local communities are just as important.

“In your endeavours in all these areas, you can count on the Netherlands keen interest and involvement signalling the Netherland’s support of Brunei in an effort that has gained international importance over the past few years,” Her Majesty observed.

Her Majesty Queen Beatrix also touched upon Brunei’s culture that has fascinated many people in the Netherlands especially so with various exceptionally beautiful things the Sultanate has to offer and commended current efforts to enjoy more cultural exchanges.

She then shared that the Brunei Museum and the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam have plans to cooperate in raising awareness on “the beauty of this country and to deepen the understanding between our peoples”.

“That aspiration can only be applauded,” she said.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty is scheduled to visit the Belait District today, followed by an Evening of Appreciation dinner.

The State Visit will conclude tomorrow. - Borneo Bulletin (22 January 2013)