KOMPAS.com – 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 Kompas.com’ 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.