Meet focusses on nexus between COVID-19, wildlife trade

Azlan Othman

The Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam joined an online meeting organised by the Asean Secretariat ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation yesterday. It is an initiative and cooperation of the two organisations in discussing the correlation between COVID-19 and wildlife trade.

The meeting was attended by Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari, and two officials from the Department of Councils of State.

The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the relationship between wildlife trafficking issues that pose a risk for the spread of the COVID-19 (zoonotic disease) that is affecting public health worldwide.

Also discussed is the preparedness of ASEAN member countries in responding to wildlife trade issues that led to the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic and to reduce the risk of similar pandemic outbreaks in the future.

Secretary to the Cabinet Minister’s Council and Clerk to the Legislative Council Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Jaya Dato Paduka Haji Judin bin Haji Asar was also present.

Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari at the virtual meeting. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

The meeting began with a welcome speech from Secretary General of the AIPA Secretariat Nguyen Tuong Van and followed by a speech by Standing Member of the Science, Technology and Environment Committee of the Vietnam National Assembly Nguyen Tuan Anh.

Among the main agenda of the meeting were briefings from panel members, acclaimed author of 2012 book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic David Quammen; International Chair, Executive Director of Freeland Wildlife trade, origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and ASEAN response Steven Galster; Legal Expert of Freeland on Regional Legal and Policy Framework on Counter Wildlife Trafficking in the times of COVID-19 and other pandemics Sally Yang and former chairman of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) John Scanlon.

Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa issued a statement on the lack of stringent laws imposed on wildlife consumers within ASEAN member countries and led to an increase in wildlife trade activity.

The meeting ended with a question-and-answer session between the participants and the panel members, followed by a closing speech by the Nguyen Tuan Anh.

The Legislative Council has given strong support on the issues raised and welcomed recommendations presented during the meeting, including to strengthen the laws on wildlife protection and increase public awareness of consuming and using wildlife products that are at high risk to public health.

Addressing this issue can serve as a platform for lawmakers in the ASEAN region, environmentalists as well as legal experts to discuss universal rules and frameworks. In addition, a resolution is expected to be issued at the AIPA General Assembly later.