Nothing compares to in-person meeting: Minister

Azlan Othman

Virtual meetings can never replace face-to-face meetings which are more personal, and the human touch can give more positive results, said Minister of Foreign Affairs II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof on the fourth day of the 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session, while deliberating the budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

The minister was responding to LegoCo member Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad’s query as to whether Brunei Missions and representatives abroad were unavailable or inactive.

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan added, “Establishing missions in friendly nations is paramount for economic and political ties, as political friendship and values are priceless; and stationing our diplomats at Brunei Diplomatic Missions is crucial.

“On diplomats still residing in the country, this is not because of the new norm, but due to the absence of flights, mental health issues probably caused by COVID-19, or other personal problems.”

In response to Yang Berhormat Iswandy’s query on how the United Nations (UN) resolution can be embraced for youth to contribute to appreciate peace and security, the minister said, “Bruneians, regardless of whether they are youth or elderly citizens, should not take the peace that we enjoy for granted. In order to maintain peace, we need to understand that the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which is an important platform for security dialogue and brings many dialogue partners, can inculcate the importance of ascertaining security and unity amongst countries and stakeholders in the region.

“We are hoping to hold a workshop this year, with youths in Asean and member nations of ARF, to instill awareness on peace among youth and to promote understanding on the UN Resolution.”

Responding to a query by LegCo member Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii on the impact of memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance the nation’s status as a preferred trade partner and whether the MFA would stock take its implementation in the new norm, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan said, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a coordinator among government agencies and friendly nations; and in terms of MoU signing, it depends on the requirements such as cooperation on sports, youths, and trade, to facilitate bilateral investment treaties.

“The impact is evaluated from time to time with various agencies. Sometimes, if there is no MoU which leads to any area of interest, then such areas can be proposed during state visits to initiate discussions and to find whether there is interest in investment or trade.

“State visits or bilateral consultation meetings present opportunities to review with other nations. I have attended bilateral meetings with India and Japan, where there were opportunities to review areas of cooperation in general.

“If there are problems, we find ways to address to them. But if there are no problems, then the relations will continue as usual.”