New proposals to resolve maritime boundary issues
By Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia are exploring ways to expand cooperation ranging from facilitating smooth border crossing, increasing flight frequencies, expanding the halal industry, Islamic banking, tourism and the possibility of private sectors of both countries to explore business joint ventures in third countries.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi are also keen to solve the long-standing maritime delimitation issue and the Malaysian premier is hopeful of an early settlement.

The Malaysian premier highlighted the outcome of the 11th Annual Leaders' Consultation between the leaders during a press briefing yesterday.

A Joint Statement issued at the end of the consultation said, the leaders discussed the long-standing issue of maritime delimitation, on which both sides had put forward new proposals, and agreed on the need to resolve the matter urgently. To this end, the leaders instructed the negotiating teams to work out the details.

Dato' Seri Abdullah told the media that the frequent travellers card (FTC) will be re-launched September 10, 2007. FTC is currently being used by frequent border hoppers only at the Sungai Tujoh checkpoint bordering Belait and Miri. By using FTC, passports of both nationals will no longer be subject to continuous immigration endorsements.

In March this year, senior officials from Brunei and Malaysia met in Penang where Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat, Secretary-General of Malaysia's Ministry of Home Affairs highlighted that the first phase of FTC will be a pilot project used in Sg Tujoh. If it succeeds, it will be used in Kuala Lurah, Brunei and Tedungan, Sarawak as well as Pandaruan, Sarawak and Puni, Brunei in August 2007. It would probably be extended at the airports and waters of both countries.

"I think that this is a very good move and I hope that this mechanism will ensure a smooth passage for frequent travellers at Malaysia-Brunei border crossings," said Dato' Abdullah.

Leaders of Brunei and Malaysia also expressed satisfaction with the warm and longstanding friendship between the two nations and underlined the importance of continuing to enhance the close ties that exist between both countries.

The two leaders reviewed the overall state of bilateral relations and noted with satisfaction the progress of cooperation in particular in trade and investment, finance, transportation, information and communication technology, defence, health, education and tourism.

In this regard, both leaders reaffirmed the commitment to further expand and deepen the bilateral relations based on mutual benefit and respect.

Both leaders highlighted the importance for both countries to continue to work together to seek ways and means to expand further growth in bilateral trade and investment. In this regard, the leaders tasked their senior officials to explore ways and means to expand cooperation in areas such as trade facilitation, the halal products industry, Islamic banking and tourism.

The two leaders further encouraged the private sectors of both countries to take the opportunity of the close ties between the two countries to further explore possibilities of joint ventures in third countries.

The two leaders highlighted the need for both countries to continue working together in facilitating and creating a more conducive business environment, especially for the business communities of Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.

The leaders recognised the importance of continuing cooperation in the air services sector and agreed that an increase in flight frequencies and operations between the two countries could further promote tourism and help foster closer friendship and understanding between the two peoples. In this regard, the leaders took note of the ongoing negotiations between the two countries to further explore cooperation in this sector.

The two leaders noted the signing of the Heart of Borneo Declaration which they had endorsed during the Asean Summit in Cebu City, Philippines, January 12 and reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate in transboundary management of forest resources and conservation of a network of protected areas, productive forests and other sustainable land uses.

They also looked forward to the forthcoming BIMP-EAGA Summit in November in Singapore. The leaders expressed support for Singapore's preparations of the 13th Asean Summit especially its theme of "Energy, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development" for discussions at their meeting.

The leaders particularly looked forward to receiving the final draft of the Asean Charter in Singapore and its endorsement by Asean Heads of State/Government. Both leaders were of the view that the Charter will strengthen Asean by making it more effective and responsive; making Asean a more rules-based and people-oriented organisation and creating a culture that honours obligations and is held accountable for non compliance.

The two leaders exchanged views on regional and international matters of mutual concern. With regard to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, Sudan, both leaders welcomed efforts by the international community to help resolve the conflict and welcomed the decision of the UN to form a Hybrid United Nations-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force for Darfur. The government of Malaysia, if invited, will consider at an appropriate time its participation in UNAMID.

The two leaders continued to encourage international efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, in particular the people of Palestine. The two leaders also urged the international community to continue to find ways to assist the people of Iraq in determining their own future. Both leaders agreed that this goal could only be achieved through a comprehensive political settlement and with the participation of all major ethnic and religious groups in the country.

Both leaders expressed support for the ongoing efforts by the OIC in identifying the challenges and needs of the Muslim Ummah.

They also expressed hope that the review of the OIC Charter will help make the OIC more responsive and relevant to the needs and challenges facing the Muslim Ummah of the 21st century.

His Majesty presented both his personal congratulations to Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and those of the government and people of Brunei to all Malaysians on the 50th anniversary of their independence.

His Majesty paid tribute to half a century of outstanding achievements by the Malaysian people in building the nation. These, His Majesty added, have not only brought economic and rapid progress and rapid social developments at home but have enabled Malaysia to become a highly respected leader among developing countries throughout the world. The leaders agreed to hold the 12th Annual Leaders' Consultation in Malaysia next year. - Borneo Bulletin (15th August 2007)