ASEAN must be future-ready for challenges ahead

James Kon

Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof led the Brunei delegation at the 15th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) yesterday, held virtually via video conference.

Delivering his opening remarks as chair of the 15th ADMM, the minister said, “More than a year since ADMM met for the retreat in Hanoi, and we still have yet to be presented with the opportunity to meet physically.

“The pandemic has a profound impact in shaping the discourse of our engagement. At the same time, it revealed the work we need to do to ensure our region remains resilient, cohesive and future-ready for the challenges ahead of us.”

He added, “It would also be remiss of me not to mention the grave loss of lives resulting from this pandemic and its after-effects that are nothing short of unrelenting.

“Despite the challenges, I am confident that our cooperation can be further strengthened and advanced, especially after witnessing the unwavering spirit of cooperation since the pandemic gained a foothold in our region. We continue to adapt the best we can, collectively facing the challenge head-on, and today’s 15th ADMM is a solid statement of that.

“As the chair of ASEAN 2021, Brunei Darussalam bears the theme, ‘We Care, We Prepare,
We Prosper’.”

Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof with senior officials for the 15th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting. PHOTO: MINDEF

Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi outlined three key priorities in sustaining the efforts that ASEAN has made up to the present. “Harness the caring nature of ASEAN to build a harmonious and resilient community with its people at the centre; prepare and adapt for the future to ensure ASEAN remains relevant and its people take advantage of new opportunities as well as overcome existing and future challenges; and create opportunities for all to benefit through initiatives that enhance the sustainable prosperity of the region.

“With ADMM in its 15th year, it is high time for us to reflect on what our efforts have achieved and explore ways, to enhance our initiatives and processes.

“I believe that ADMM, as the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN, can do and achieve more. We believe this can be done through becoming more strategic in our orientation and approach, even more so, as we aim to make our initiatives sustainable in the long run, and bring about the lasting impact to the ASEAN Community, notably through effective cross-sectoral and cross-pillar coordination.”

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) Brigadier General (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah and Deputy Permanent Secretary (Policy and Strategy) at the MinDef Haji Adi Ihram bin Dato Paduka Haji Mahmud, in their capacities as Brunei Darussalam ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM) Leader and Brunei Darussalam ADSOM Working Group Leader also attended the meeting.

At the sidelines, the ASEAN-China Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting convened, following the conclusion of the 15th ADMM.

The ADMM will continue its momentum of practical defence cooperation with eight Plus countries at the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) today.