| Ishan Ibrahim |
WITH several thousands of plant species and hundreds of animal species that call Borneo their home, this Southeast Asian island is considered one of the most important biodiversity hotspots on earth.
This has prompted Brunei Darussalam’s premier university, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), to establish the Borneo Studies Network (BSN) through its Institute of Asian Studies (IAS).
IAS has hosted regional meetings and workshops in recent years to facilitate the Borneo Studies Network.
The urgency to create a viable channel and platform for all relevant parties and players to actively participate in what Borneo has to offer was expounded by Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain bin Hj Hanafi, Permanent Secretary for Higher Education at the Ministry of Education and Vice Chancellor of UBD in his welcoming remarks at The Core, UBD at the opening ceremony of the Borneo Studies Network’s 1st Governing Council Meeting yesterday.
He said UBD and other regional institutions at the meeting had a responsibility to ensure research and studies on the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of Borneo are conducted.
UBD is already among the leaders, with IAS researching the evolution of languages, specifically in the indigenous languages of Borneo that include Tutong, Belait and Lun Bawang.
Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain pointed out that UBD’s key research strengths in Borneo Studies are linguistics and languages.
He said UBD remained one of the few universities in the world to teach the indigenous languages of Borneo.
Although UBD’s Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER) had done extensive work in highlighting the diversity of the Borneo rainforest with focus on the global issues of sustainability, medicine and energy, Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain said the resources of the BSN partners would aid in strengthening and expediting the research initiatives.
BSN, he added, is in a position to provide the needs and drive forward the work done by all the institutions.
Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain said the signing of the BSN Charter would facilitate collaboration, cooperation and mobility across the various institutes of the region.
BSN, he said, would address certain challenges faced when researching in Borneo as this organisation would provide a systematic platform for a rapidly growing network of researchers as well as the development and nurturing of young and emerging scholars.
He added that this partnership could generate incredible opportunities of dynamic interchanges that are most conducive for the creation and discovery of new knowledge and approaches.
The partnership would not only strengthen their regional presence and contribution to the international community, but also develop the relevant expertise fundamental to the evolving identity of Borneo, he explained.
Dr Yabit Alas, Director of the Secretariat of the Borneo Studies Network, said the signing of the BSN Charter brought together 12 institutions from across Borneo for a world class research on the island’s wealth of biological diversity, with its natural environment and cultural heritage deemed important not only regionally but globally.
The two-day meeting is being attended by members of BSN that include Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Universitas Borneo Tarakan, Universitas Palangka Raya, Universitas Islam Kalimantan, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universitas Mulawarman (Samarinda-Indonesia), Universitas Lambung Mangkurat (Banjarmasin-Indonesia), Universitas Balikpapan (Indonesia), and Universitas Tanjungpura, Institut Dayakologi, Sekolah Tinggi Pastoral Keuskupan Agung and Mata Enggang Institut.
The BSN Charter was also signed by these institutions. This document will mark the official beginning of the collaborative and cooperative efforts by its member institutions.
The BSN Charter official website, which has just been launched, was created to facilitate communications and resource-sharing across institutions. It is also to foster recognition of work done by these institutions in the network across international circles.
Concurrently, the Graduate Student Workshop for postgraduates from member institutions was also conducted.
It will feature presentations on their ongoing research across disciplines in Borneo Studies and academic training sessions run by UBD faculty members.
The workshop is held until October 30 as part of the network’s efforts to foster research competitiveness and is indicative of its commitment to moulding young Borneo Studies scholars.
The ceremony also featured a keynote lecture by Professor Hendrik J Maier, a renowned specialist in Malay Literature from UBD’s Institute of Asian Studies.