BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Brunei government has set aside $2 million to prepare for the hosting of ASEAN Summit next year, the second finance and economy minister said.

Speaking at the 16th Legislative Council (LegCo) sitting on Thursday, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the funds are allocated as part of the ministry’s miscellaneous expenses in the 2020/2021 financial year.

Second Foreign Affairs Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Dato Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof Thursday said the country has established the ASEAN national committee that will oversee preparations for the summit.

In his budget readout during the LegCo proceedings, he said Brunei can play a bigger role in regional and international fora together with other ASEAN member states.

“Brunei alone does not have the same capability or voice in issues such as climate change, international trade as well as terrorism and natural disaster,” he said.

Brunei, which last hosted the ASEAN Summit in 2013, is also given the opportunity to interact with ASEAN dialogue partner countries and seek assistance from countries and international organisations, he added.

The ministry tabled a budget of $113.9 million for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, an uptick from the previous year.

YB Dato Hj Erywan said the budget would be spent on staff salaries and recurring expenses.

Without elaborating MFA’s planned spending, he said the budget will allow the ministry to carry out its role not only in upholding the country’s foreign policy but also act as a facilitator of diplomatic relations with other countries.

He reiterated that the ministry’s main objective is to defend the sovereignty of the king and country, protect border integrity, as well uphold political, cultural and religious identity through mutual respect.

“In carrying out its duties and responsibility, the ministry will continue to practise principles that are consistent with the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy by practising good relations/diplomacy with all countries; mutual respect, equality of all nations and non-interference in the countries’ affairs,” YB Dato Hj Erywan said.

Vow to uphold international norms

The minister said Brunei’s positive approach in foreign policy will ensure close relationship is maintained with other countries and the sultanate’s image is protected.

This is accomplished through a bilateral and multilateral approach through exchange of visits and meetings as well as collaborations with regional and international organisations, he added.

“Brunei has benefited greatly from this approach either in terms of providing understanding on Brunei customs and traditions or in [addressing] any international concerns on Brunei’s commitment to fulfil any international treaties [that it is signatory of],” he said.

YB Dato Hj Erywan said it is imperative for the country to continue strengthening its diplomatic relations with neighbours to ensure foreign policy strategies can be properly executed.

“In a world of unprecedented geopolitical and economic turmoil, such as the crude oil production dispute; trade disputes; COVID-19 outbreak; climate change; terrorism and extremism threats, Brunei as a small developing nation cannot stand alone in this interconnected and globalised world,” he said.

“Brunei has established diplomatic relations with 171 countries and will continue to adhere to the principle of multilateralism; uphold the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter and abide by the laws and international commitments that we are a signatory of,” he added.

Dealing with COVID-19

YB Dato Hj Erywan said all 43 of Brunei’s diplomatic missions abroad are monitoring COVID-19 developments.

On February 7, MFA through its embassy in Beijing and other stakeholders repatriated two Bruneians from Wuhan – China’s epicentre of the outbreak.

YB Dato Hj Erywan urged all citizens and permanent residents travelling abroad for personal reasons to report themselves on the ministry’s e-Register system.

He said this will make it easier for representatives at the respective missions to contact them in the event of an emergency.

Travellers are urged to purchase health/travel insurance and be responsible to ensure their well-being while abroad.