BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Malaysia’s new government, led by the Pakatan Harapan coalition, is keen to expand cooperation with Brunei in economic, humanitarian and social issues, the country’s deputy prime minister said on Tuesday.

In a brief interview with The Scoop, Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said she had a “fruitful discussion” with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah during a meeting held at Istana Nurul Iman.

“We talked about how we can develop and diversify our economies, how we can encourage more B2B [business-to-business] collaboration.

“It was a very good discussion with His Majesty… As we are a new government, we reviewed our cooperation to see how we can improve ties between our two countries, and so far it has been very fruitful, I’m very happy.

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah meets HM the Duli Raja Isteri at Istana Nurul Iman on Feb 26, 2019. Photo: Infofoto

Dr Wan Azizah is in Brunei on a two-day official visit, her first since taking office in May last year when Pakatan Harapan swept to victory, unseating Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional in the federal election.

Her visit follows that of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who made a stop to Brunei last September, and is scheduled to meet Brunei’s monarch in Putrajaya on March 5 for the annual leaders consultation, which has not been held since November 2017.

The deputy prime minister said that during her meeting with the sultan, they also touched on regional issues and spoke about Malaysia’s role in providing humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Dr Wan Azizah, who also holds the post of minister of Women, Family and Community Development, then met with her Bruneian counterpart, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, YB Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.

“In the field of women’s empowerment; child rights and implementation of the CRC [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child]; people with disabilities; and an aging society — these are areas where we can enhance each others capabilities, and exchange best practices,” she told The Scoop after the meeting.

“We have also offered assistance to Brunei in efforts relating to special needs group and efforts to combat cybercrime, especially involving the protection of children.”

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah showing her Instagram page to Brunei’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Dato Hj Aminuddin, after a meeting at the Empire Hotel & Country Club on Feb 26, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The deputy prime minister also held a dialogue session with the Malaysian community in Brunei, and is scheduled to make visits to the National Disaster Management Centre and Pusat Bahagia on Wednesday.

She will also meet business leaders and HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, before leaving Wednesday afternoon.

Brunei is Malaysia’s seventh largest trading partner in ASEAN, with trade volume amounting to over US$980 million in 2018.