IN THREE years’ time, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of its establishment and over the next 50 years, the association will be facing many complex challenges along the way and it needs to be constantly prepared to address them.
One of the immediate challenges requiring Asean’s attention is countering acts of extremism and terrorism, which can be seen in various parts of the world. They threaten security and more worrying is that the people in the Southeast Asian region are at risk of being recruited to join such groups.
These observations were made by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a titah delivered during the Plenary Session of the 25th Asean
Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
In light of this, His Majesty said he supports Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Laila Utama Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak’s proposal for Asean ministers to work closely together in ensuring that Asean has the capacity to address these immediate challenges.
On the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, His Majesty said this underlines how crucial it is to be well-prepared in dealing with problems of such magnitude.
In this regard, His Majesty expressed his support for Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s proposal to convene a special meeting to address this issue next month.
His Majesty, meanwhile, reiterated the importance of strengthening Asean Community building efforts as the challenges of the 21st century – be it economic inequalities, pandemic diseases, natural disasters or transnational crimes – will all directly affect the Asean people.
According to His Majesty, Asean Community building is both a long-term vision and a platform to strengthen Asean’s Cooperation in all areas amongst the people of the region. It will continue to be the association’s main focus for many years to come.
As such, careful thought needs to be given in ensuring a ‘people-centred’ Asean. In this regard, His Majesty said he supports the Malaysian Prime Minister in making this as the main focus of Malaysia’s Chairmanship of Asean next year.
It is imperative that Asean build a community that is meaningful to the Asean people, one which they can relate to and benefit from, His Majesty said, adding that it must also offer security in their livelihoods and provide opportunities for their future.
The Asean people, His Majesty added, must be central to the agenda of the community pillars.
In order to achieve this, Asean has to clarify what ‘people-centred’ really means, His Majesty said.
“Asean must therefore understand what we mean by ‘people-centred’, in order to ensure that the Asean people are central in the strategies and programmes Asean has designed for the future,” said His Majesty.
Politically, His Majesty continued, it means Asean citizens should continue to enjoy peace and stability. Economically, it requires sustainable development to create better standards of living for the Asean people.
Steps should also be taken in narrowing disparities such as alleviating poverty and addressing the difficulties faced by those who are struggling to make a decent living, said His Majesty.
“It should provide meaningful livelihood and dignity to the Asean people. It requires good governance, sustainable development, assisting and protecting vulnerable groups such as women and children and providing more opportunities for all, especially the youth,” His Majesty said.
According to His Majesty, this would be a formidable undertaking for Asean. This is why Asean should strive to strengthen its internal coordination and cooperation in all the three pillars to ensure Asean’s initiatives are carried out promptly for its peoples, His Majesty added.
His Majesty expressed his satisfaction that the recommendations of the High-Level Task Force had emphasised the importance of greater cross-pillar and cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation, as well as putting forward proposals to strengthen the capability of the Asean Secretariat in carrying out its task.
“It is important that these recommendations are acted upon immediately,” His Majesty said, adding that Asean officials should come up with a Post-2015 Vision that will ensure that Asean remains relevant for the next five decades.
His Majesty also expressed his satisfaction that a Communications Master Plan had been finalised to spread the Asean message, as this would ensure that the Asean people will have a better understanding of the Asean Community.
Earlier, His Majesty consented to attend the opening ceremony of the 25th Asean Summit and the launching of the Asean Institute of Green Economy.
The arrival of His Majesty at the Myanmar International Convention Centre was welcomed by U Thein Sein, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and wife, Daw Khin Khin Win.
Before the opening ceremony, His Majesty consented to join other Heads of State and Government and their spouses for a group photo session.
The ceremony began with the opening statement by the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar as the Chairman of the 25th Asean Summit and Related Summits.
His Majesty also consented to join other Heads of State and Government for a group photo session before viewing cultural performances by the host country.
After the opening ceremony, His Majesty attended the launching of the Asean Institute of Green Economy together with other leaders.
After the launching ceremony of the institute, His Majesty attended the 25th Asean Summit Plenary Session.
In this summit, Asean leaders discussed matters closely related to the theme of the Asean Summit this year, “Moving Forward In Unity To A Peaceful & Prosperous Community”.
Some of the main agenda discussed include issues towards the realisation of the Asean Community in 2015 and the strategic direction of the Asean Community Post-2015, as well as strengthening of Asean institutions.
After the Plenary Session, His Majesty and other leaders proceeded for a luncheon. Accompanying His Majesty were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd 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 the Foreign Affairs and Trade II.