Brunei and Malaysia are banking on possible cooperation in vaccine diplomacy including the acknowledgment of the nations’ respective vaccination certificates to facilitate cross-border movement of people between both countries. 

This was revealed in a Joint Statement between His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

The Malaysian Prime Minister and spouse Puan Sri Norainee Abd Rahman were in the sultanate earlier this week for their first official visit to the sultanate as well as the 23rd Annual Leaders’ Consultation between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia. 

Establishing cooperation in vaccine diplomacy

According to the joint statement, the leaders recognised the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the economy and social fabric of each other’s countries.  

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In this regard, the leaders reiterated their commitment to work closely in addressing the common challenges while underscoring the importance of revitalising and protecting the socio-economic stability of both countries and people. 

Moving forward, both leaders discussed the possible cooperation of Brunei-Malaysia in vaccine diplomacy which would encompass three major matters including a reciprocal mutual recognition of vaccination certificates between both nations to facilitate cross-border movement of the people between both countries. 

The other matters include reciprocal vaccine arrangement for both nationals covering diplomats, students and expatriates and ensuring access to vaccine supplies for both Brunei and Malaysia. 

“Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the movement of peoples during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring their safe cross-border movement, with the necessary safeguards in place so that public health concerns are addressed,” the statement read. 

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With this, both sides have “agreed in principle” to establish a Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL), with effective COVID-19 prevention and control measures, to facilitate essential business and official travel between both countries. 

The leaders further agreed for officials from both sides to undertake consultations on the draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the proposed RGL, noting that with the disruption of flight operations since March 2020, both leaders looked forward to the resumption of air travel when the situation permits. 

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“Both leaders also expressed their appreciation with the collaboration between the two governments, particularly in managing the repatriation of their respective citizens stranded in each other’s country and other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement added. 

Following the meeting, both leaders then proceeded to witness two signings; a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia on Co-Operation in Disaster Management and the Letter of Acknowledgement between Brunei National Unitisation Secretariat and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS). 

The MoU was signed by the sultanate’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd and the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. 

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Furthering economic cooperation between Brunei and Malaysia

Meanwhile, the Letter of Acknowledgement between Brunei National Unitisation Secretariat and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS) was signed by Brunei’s Acting Minister of Energy, Dato Seri Paduka Hj Matsatejo Sokiaw and Malaysia’s Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Kamadjaja Aziz, President and Group Chief Executive Officer of PETRONAS. 

The leaders reiterated the importance of the mechanism under the implementation of the Exchange of Letters led by the foreign ministers of both countries while expressing hopes that both sides would exert all efforts in advancing their work in this area. 

Pleased with long-standing collaboration between Brunei’s Petroleum Authority and PETRONAS, thl;e leaders expressed hopes that both parties would further progress their commercial arrangements including monetisation discussions for a viable development of the gas resources in the commercial arrangement areas. 

The formalisation of the Unitisation Agreement (UA) between the Brunei National Unitisation Secretariat and PETRONAS would be a landmark agreement that would add positive momentum to the oil and gas cooperation between both countries. 

The leaders proceeded to underscore the need to further enhance closer economic cooperation between the sultanate and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. 

They acknowledged that the opening of the Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge that links Brunei-Muara to Temburong plays an important role in facilitating greater international trade and investment opportunities between the two countries. 

They also welcomed efforts to strengthen business-to-business engagement, including the MOU signing between the Chambers of Commerce and Industries of both countries which would cover economic cooperation and commercial exchanges. 

The leaders then underlined the importance of synergy in cooperation and promotion in other sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, education as well as connectivity trade and tourism.

Both leaders expressed satisfaction with the steady progress made in agriculture, particularly on the importation of livestock and fresh produce from Sabah and Sarawak, emphasising the importance of strengthening cooperation in this area to ensure food supply chains and distribution functions efficiently. 

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In line with this, the leaders then acknowledged the significant benefits of enhancing connectivity and collaboration in transport, particularly in facilitating the movement of goods and people. 

In this regard they looked forward to signing the MoU on Transport Cooperation, paving the way enhance partnership in areas such as safety, security, intelligent transport systems and logistics. 

They also looked forward to the early conclusion of a modernised Air Services Agreement between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia. 

Building a harmonious and resilient ASEAN

Malaysia then congratulated Brunei on assuming the ASEAN Chairmanship and its apt theme for the year; “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper”. 

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With this, the leaders looked forward to working closely together with other ASEAN member states on harnessing the caring nature of ASEAN to build a harmonious and resilient ASEAN community. 

With the people at its centre, the leaders looked forward to an ASEAN community that prepares and adapts for future challenges and threats, ensuring ASEAN remains relevant and resilient and creating opportunities for people to benefit through initiatives that enhance the sustainable prosperity of the region. 

“Malaysia reaffirmed its fullest support and cooperation to take forward Brunei Darussalam’s key priorities and deliverables under its Chairmanship,” the statement read. 

The leaders then proceeded to address a number of regional and international issues, particularly expressing serious concern on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar and the rising number of fatalities. 

They urged all parties from instigating further violence, to seek a peaceful solution, pursue constructive dialogue, reconciliation and quickly return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar for the greater peace, security and stability of the region. 

The leaders then reaffirmed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar including through the good offices of the Chairman of ASEAN and the Secretary-General of ASEAN in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner. 

“In this regard, both leaders agreed for ASEAN Leaders to meet to discuss the ongoing developments in Myanmar and tasked their respective Ministers and senior officials to undertake necessary preparations for the meeting that will be held at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia,” the statement continued. 

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Both leaders went on to agree to advance ASEAN’s proactive and outward-looking approach in the conduct of ASEAN’s external relations based on shared interests, constructive engagements and mutual benefits, which can contribute to ASEAN’s Community-building. 

In this respect, both leaders welcomed the application of the United Kingdom to become a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN as well as the applications of Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates to be Sectoral Dialogue Partners of ASEAN. 

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam then expressed his warmest greetings to all Malaysians celebrating the upcoming blessed month of Ramadhan. 

The Prime Minister of Malaysia returned the greeting and wished all Bruneians observing the holy month a happy Ramadhan Al-Mubarak. 

Both leaders went on to express satisfaction with the outcome of their meeting and looked forward to the implementation of the decisions reached for a much-strengthened bilateral relationship and cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia. 

The leaders then agreed to hold the 24th Annual Leaders’ Consultation in Malaysia in 2022.

This article was first published on April 10, 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 136

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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