Bandar Seri Begawan - High hopes have been invested in Brunei Darussalam by Singapore's Prime Minister as the Sultanate will be the Chair of the Asean Summit next year.
In a press conference that took place between Singapore media with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at The Empire Hotel and Country Club in Jerudong, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that "there would be progress on the South China Sea (SCS) issue" that has divided several countries in Asia as they stake claim on maritime boundaries and islands that are of significant economic potential. According to Channelnews Asia, Mr Lee, who is on a three-day visit to Brunei, "urged all parties involved in the dispute to start working on a Code of Conduct", advising that "the steps to find a solution are incremental" whilst stressing that "informal consultations must start among the parties concerned".
"Asean has to take a position on the South China Sea because it happens (on) our doorstep and we have to have a forward-looking neutral view which is balanced and encourages all the parties- to come together and start working on the Code of Conduct.
"I think Brunei is thinking along the lines too. They are focussed on making outcomes during the year as Asean Chairman and less so on the form of the meetings and the events-, which are part of the Asean process," Mr Lee was quoted as saying.
A press statement issued by Singapore's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said that the press conference included an expression of enthusiasm shared by Mr Lee on his return to Brunei after five years. The duration of his stay, he said, resulted in "good meetings" with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as well as His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office as well as other "good briefings and visits" over the past few days.
During his stay, Mr Lee had also met with "old friends" including Speaker of the Legislative Council YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa bin Pehin Dam Perdana Manteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Ibrahim whom Mr Lee first met during his maiden visit to Brunei in 1982 as well as meeting new acquaintances comprising Brunei's ministers and officials "who had many new ideas for taking Brunei forward and furthering its economic development".
Several bilateral projects, he told the media, are currently in line for implementation including a regular dialogue mechanism between the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) to discuss monetary and financial issues as well as areas of mutual interest that is hoped to also "bring the Currency Interchangeability Agreement (CIA) forward even further", which remains important.
Coupled with the education initiatives that are expected to be rolled out by January next year, these areas of collaboration will benefit both nations that will involve the younger generation.
"Apart from these individual projects," said the statement, "Prime Minister Lee noted that an important theme from this visit was the need to cement and build upon the relationship between Singapore and Brunei, which has lasted since the time of His Majesty's late father and (former and first Prime Minister of Singapore) Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
"In particular, it was important to continue nurturing the good ties between younger leaders on both sides," and with this, Mr Lee said that His Majesty had agreed to a proposal for Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean to lead a group of younger Singaporean ministers to visit Brunei next year "so that they can interact with younger Bruneian leaders" that is expected to "help build up friendships between leaders on both sides".
On the tourism front, Mr Lee said, "Singapore is happy to welcome more tourists from Brunei and also encourages Singaporeans to visit Brunei to enjoy its natural beauty and peaceful environment."--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin