Sustaining UK-Brunei ties top agenda of new British envoy

Aziz Idris

The newly appointed British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam John Virgoe said his main priorities are sustaining United Kingdom (UK)-Brunei relations, contributing regionally with ASEAN and working alongside Brunei to combat climate change.

Virgoe who has worked on climate change with the UK foreign office, looks forward to encouraging “ambitious climate change” goals as both countries will host important summits a few weeks apart in 2021.

“It’s becoming very urgent, we can’t wait to take action on climate change. Next year, the UK will be hosting the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. This is the top priority of the UK Government,” he said in an interview with the Bulletin on Friday.

“It’s a happy coincidence that Brunei will be chairing the ASEAN Summit just a few weeks before the COP26 Summit. This is an opportunity to work closely with Brunei to encourage ambitious climate change goals across ASEAN and support Brunei on its own actions,” he said.

Virgoe lauded Brunei for the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, saying it was a “real achievement” with Brunei among the few countries that now seemed ‘unaffected’ by COVID-19.

British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam John Virgoe. PHOTO: AZIZ IDRIS

He said Brunei and the UK have forged a strong relationship based on mutual respect, which has been manifested in cooperation for over 120 years.

Virgoe also said representing the British Government in its relations with Brunei and supporting British interests in Brunei are among his core mandates.

With regard to defence ties, the two countries have long-standing ties as demonstrated by engagement between both forces, especially with the presence of the garrison and joint cooperation between British and Bruneian armed forces.

He underscored the need to strengthen cooperation in education, especially with many Bruneians choosing the UK to further their studies.

Virgoe also shared his love for music and arts. He occasionally sings and plays the piano and is interested to learn more about the local scene.

The high commissioner also expressed his admiration for animals, especially cats and has flown his pet Billy which has become “insta-famous” after opening his own Instagram account “@billyinbrunei”.

He graduated from Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, Princeton University, New Jersey and has experience working in the region, especially Southeast Asia.

Virgoe has been appointed High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam in succession to Richard Lindsay who will move to another diplomatic service appointment.

The high commissioner arrived in the sultanate four weeks ago and was under quarantine for two weeks with his wife, Tuti Suwidjiningsih and two children.

He presented his Letter of Credence to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on Thursday.