| Danial Norjidi |
MEMBERS of the diplomatic community expressed their best wishes and extended festive greetings during a gathering for VVIPs at the Istana Nurul Iman on the first day of Hari Raya on Monday.
The reception was hosted by 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 and Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha binti Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed Alam.
A number of ambassadors and high commissioners spoke to the Bulletin, sharing their thoughts on the Hari Raya celebrations as well as on the relationship between their countries and Brunei Darussalam.
Richard Lindsay, the British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam said of the celebrations, “This is the end of my first week in Brunei, so it’s all very new for me. It’s a very exciting opportunity. It’s a great honour to be here as the British High Commissioner.
“There’s a great relationship which the United Kingdom and Brunei have and I’m looking forward to building that,” he said.
“We have an incredibly strong relationship based on our historic links of defence, of our links of education, and obviously of our economic links, in oil and gas particularly.
“Those are incredibly strong pillars of our relationship as well as the links between our royal families, which is essential, and my job here is to build that and broaden that, and to contribute to the diversification of the economy here and of our links.”
Another diplomat to speak with the Bulletin was Nagma Mohamed Mallick, the High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam, who is celebrating Hari Raya in Brunei for the second time.
“It is a great privilege to be here at the Istana to meet His Majesty, Her Majesty and other members of the royal family on this blessed occasion,” she said.
“It’s also a time to recall His Majesty’s leadership and guidance over this country, how his guidance has given peace, prosperity and good fortune to this country, and I really believe that India and Brunei’s good relations are also in large measure due to His Majesty’s friendship and His Majesty’s good feelings for us, and of course the traditional friendship that has always existed between our part of the world and this part of the world.
“I’m happy to say that our relations are characterised now by high-level exchanges of visits by cultural exchanges, by educational exchanges, and by trade, of course. We are looking at a whole lot of other ways in which we can make this relationship stronger, and we will be doing that over the course of the year.”
On further developing the relationship between the two countries, she said, “India is already one of the largest buyers of crude oil in Brunei, and we want to expand this relationship further. We are looking at increasing our purchases in gas, in fertiliser, in various things.
“The time here in terms of the economy is delicate and unusual compared to what it has been, but I think there’s opportunity even in that, and I think for Bruneians, Indian companies offer a great price-quality match that other companies from other areas of the world and this region – where you traditionally source things from – can’t match.
“So really, I believe this is a good opportunity for us and our industries to rediscover each other.”
Meanwhile, the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Brunei Darussalam Mehmet Suat Akgun, who is celebrating his first Hari Raya in Brunei, also spoke to the Bulletin. He noted that the occasion is one that is celebrated all over the world, and in the entire Muslim world. “That’s the kind of unity and harmony and peaceful environment we need, unfortunately more than ever, in the world. This is why I’m happy to be here and happy to be part of this environment,” he said.
Asked for his thoughts on the relationship between Brunei and Turkey, he commented that Turkey recognised Brunei on the first day of its independence, adding that Turkey has had an embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan for almost three and a half years.
“We have a good embassy, we have a good functioning residence, now I think my priority will be to conclude the legal framework of our relationship,” he said.
Lastly, in a closing statement he said, “I am very happy to be in Brunei. This is not something I am saying with the spiritual environment of Hari Raya, but I’m saying it to everybody for various reasons.”
Biravij Suwanpradhes, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Brunei Darussalam is celebrating Hari Raya in Brunei Darussalam for the second time.
“My first Hari Raya was last year when I just arrived in the country. It was an experience. I got to visit the houses of all the ministers and high-ranking officials, and of course the Istana like today,” he said.
On this year’s celebration, he said, “I looked forward to today. I just came back from a vacation a couple of days ago, and so me and my wife, both of us look forward to today, to meet our friends again over the next three or four days, and to greet them and wish them Selamat Hari Raya. ‘Selamat Hari Raya to all Bruneians and all the readers.’”
Speaking on the relationship between Brunei and Thailand, he said, “Well I think Brunei and Thailand, we are part of the Asean community, and I really wish to see Bruneians visit Thailand, and at the same time, Thai people visit Brunei.
“Thai people know and have heard a lot about Brunei, but they have not been here. That’s what my duty here is, to encourage Thai people to visit Brunei and to create that networking of people-to-people contact that will further boost trade relations and investment relations. So it’s a win-win for both countries.”
He also shared that he would like to see more Thais invest in Brunei, noting that there are plans for a business delegation from Thailand to visit Brunei next week. He said that the delegation will comprise “about 25 to 30 SMEs, and I’ve been trying to convince more to come, and hopefully to start maybe investing in at least one project.”
Extending a message to the Bruneian public, he said, “Selamat Hari Raya, and prosperity to all.”