| Danial Norjidi |
THE Chiefs of Defence Conference 2014 (CHOD 2014) was a night to remember as participants were feted to an official dinner yesterday evening at the theatre of the Empire Hotel & Country Club.
The event was co-hosted by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) and the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM).
The guests of honour were Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Paduka Seri Mohd Tawih bin Abdullah, Commander of the RBAF and Admiral Samuel J Locklear, Commander of the USPACOM, and spouse.
Also at the event were the chiefs of defence and representatives from their respective participating nations along with their spouses and other delegates.
The official dinner followed a packed three-day schedule of conference sessions, meetings and outdoor activities, and gave participants the opportunity to enjoy a meal while being entertained by the Bruneian culture and talent on stage.
Performances were conducted by the RBAF band and local artistes including Lively Dancers from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
The theme for the performances was “Kampong Ayer, the Sultanate’s Venice of the East”, depicting a reflection of Bruneian culture.
The RBAF Commander also delivered his speech and said, “CHOD has developed and strengthened over the years. The growing support by nations’ armed forces for this event depicts the close camaraderie and brotherhood of the military.”
He highlighted on a personal note that this year’s CHOD has surpassed his expectations and the invaluable experience of sharing as well as deepening friendships from the conference cannot be replicated anywhere.
“Of prime importance is that the unity, solidarity, cooperation and energetic commitment in existence today will continue growing. We need this to answer the higher calling of peace and stability, essential for this region to grow.
“We are a region that is rich in culture, traditions and languages. Some would perceive these to be barriers to neighbourly relations. I, however, see it as our strength. The strong sentiment we all feel in preserving our nations, people and culture is the strong tie that binds us all.”
The success of the conference is a true testament of the commitment and cooperation for the past few days despite the diversity, he said, adding that he is personally inspired and proud of what has been achieved.
“It signifies the strong cooperation, dedication and unity that exist among us to exploit fully multilateral mechanisms of cooperative security to achieve peace, stability and development in our region.”
He affirmed that no single country, no matter how well resourced, can respond to the presence of non-traditional threats. Often, he said, these threats and their consequences cross national boundaries, facilitated by an interconnected globalised world. “Hence, collaborative efforts among us are more necessary than ever. Expertise and capabilities can be introduced and harnessed effectively and efficiently to prevent, combat or resolve crisis quickly with less effort. Suffice for me to say again how multilateralism is perhaps the key.
“Nevertheless, this requires cooperation and unity towards a consensus building framework and adaptation of our respective armed forces to respond collectively to a wider spectrum of scenarios,” he highlighted.
The Commander of the USPACOM then delivered remarks of his own. “This event has been absolutely world class – from the entertainment tonight to the security and attention to every detail. It could not have been done in a more professional and finer way by any nation, so we’re very, very proud of you. Thank you.”
Touching on the achievements of the CHOD conferences, he said, “What we bring is the leadership and military of 26 nations – some of the most influential nations in the security environment – together for just a couple of days to sit and have conversations, to think, talk, have tea and enjoy some time together. I’m sure that keeps us on a path to peace and prosperity, that, if we didn’t do, would leave us disadvantaged.
“So we’re going to continue. Next year we’re going to try to have it in Hawaii, and we’re looking forward to have at least 26 nations, maybe more. If that works well, we’ll do it again the next year.”
Concluding his speech, Admiral Locklear said, in reference to one of the night’s performances, “Change is gonna come and we can either lead the change for peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, or we can let change pull us into places that we don’t like.”
Both the Commander of the RBAF and Commander of USPACOM then proceeded to present gifts to the CHOD 2014 participants, before the event concluded with a grand finale by a combination of all the singers and dancers of the night.