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Brunei Darussalam's ASEAN Chairmanship: Indonesian Envoy Lauds Brunei’s Response to Covid-19

April 1, 2021, 05.53 PM – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chairmanship in 2021 has been handed over to Brunei Darussalam from Vietnam amid global uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the severe challenges, Brunei has expressed its commitment to continue to improve regional recovery and address current issues together with the ASEAN Community under this year’s theme of “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper.”

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Dr. Sujatmiko shared his views on the Brunei chairmanship, the initiatives taken by the regional bloc to curb the spread of the Covid-19, and the commitment of Indonesia to support Brunei as the chair of ASEAN to assure the well-being of the people in Myanmar.

The following are excerpts from’ s exclusive e-mail interview with the envoy:

As Indonesia’s Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, could you share with us how is the implementation of this year’s ASEAN meetings under the Brunei chairmanship amid the Covid-19 pandemic?

In the second semester of last year, Brunei indicated that ASEAN meetings would be held via videoconference. The decision has provided certainty for substantive and logistic preparation of the meetings for Brunei and the other ASEAN Member States. Brunei also announced that the ASEAN Summit would only be held once and back-to-back from October 26-28. So far, all virtual meetings have been well conducted. But, of course, the meetings were done without lobbying during coffee breaks, sideline meetings, and activities to promote the host country.
However, the intensity of communication has been moved into the digital arena and it has indeed opened another opportunity for ASEAN, that is, the acceleration to embrace digital transformation and technology.

I believe the Brunei chairmanship would be very vital despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which provides both challenges and opportunities for the region. Besides, several geopolitical challenges are faced by ASEAN as well, such as the current situation in Myanmar and on-going tension in the South China Sea, which are very delicate issues faced by the ASEAN.

In the current condition as most of the meetings are held virtually, are there any programs to replace the common sideline activities such as tree planting, cultural and tourism events, and award ceremony?

I believe all of us agree that it is important to engage the local community to promote people’s awareness and understanding of ASEAN, which in turn will greatly contribute to the success of ASEAN as a community. Unfortunately, there have not been any programs to replace these community activities due to the current condition. Now with the recent Bruneian government policies to ease social-distancing measures particularly the lifting of mass gathering restriction from a maximum limit of 350 up to 1,000 people, hopefully, we will have community programs at least to celebrate the anniversary of ASEAN in early August.

Will there be face-to-face meetings during the second half of 2021?

Indonesia's Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Dr. Sujatmiko delivers his speech during a gathering with Indonesian migrant workers in the Sultanate on September 26, 2020. Dok. KBRI Bandar Seri Begawan Indonesia's Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Dr. Sujatmiko delivers his speech during a gathering with Indonesian migrant workers in the Sultanate on September 26, 2020.

Brunei Darussalam has decided to convene all ministerial meetings and other meetings below the ministerial level virtually this year. Therefore, from my point of view, it is very unlikely for us to have face-to-face meetings until the end of this year. On this matter, I believe the Brunei government will take into consideration the development of the pandemic situation as well as the coverage of mass vaccination programs throughout all ASEAN Member States.

Nevertheless, we at the Embassy, stand ready should there be a decision in convening an ASEAN meeting in physical format.

What are the programs that have been done or will be done in your role as Indonesia’s Ambassador to Brunei and one of the ambassadors in the ASEAN country to enhance the unity of the people in this regional bloc?

Currently, we are in talks with the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Sports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other ASEAN Member States Missions in Brunei, and with the Brunei Music Society (BMS) to hold a joint cultural performance in the second semester of 2021 in conjunction with the Brunei Darussalam chairmanship. Hopefully, through culture, the event would help build bridges for greater understanding among the ASEAN citizens. Furthermore, I am also in discussion with other ambassadors to organize sports events and social gatherings to enliven Brunei Darussalam's chairmanship.


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