the shift

the shift

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah visits SAF - 22Apr2014

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SINGAPORE: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has said the future of Southeast Asia remains unpredictable. He said in the coming decades, the region will be confronted with different and possibly more intense challenges than it currently faces. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is in Singapore as part of a three-day state visit, was speaking at the 34th Singapore Lecture on Tuesday on "The Future of ASEAN". The Singapore Lecture was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is ASEAN's longest-serving leader. In his opening address, Mr Teo said following Brunei's successful ASEAN chairmanship last year, the Sultan is eminently qualified to speak about the future of the grouping. During the lecture, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah pointed to the shift in economic and political weight towards Asia, and the emergence of new major and middle powers. Together, he said changes in their relationship will influence the strategic landscape. The challenge for ASEAN will be to find its place in this new environment. He added that the situation in Asia is unprecedented, and expressed concerns on several fronts, including current territorial and maritime disputes in the region. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said: "We are seeing worrying trends of weakening confidence and trust. We are concerned with the return of explicit major power rivalry. "Historical and political divides still continue to fuel nationalistic sentiments between countries. Difficulties in meeting economic commitments, and unresolved maritime disputes are risking the regions' potential." He said it is crucial that regional problems are addressed through peaceful dialogue and initiatives. He added that ASEAN must continue to be more responsive and strive to be a people-oriented organisation. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said: "Our community will not succeed merely through the creation of layers of structures and endless acronyms, nor should it serve solely as a vehicle for government officers to meet." He also urged ASEAN to enhance internal coordination and cooperation. Earlier this month, Singapore offered to host a centre to coordinate regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. In his lecture, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah applauded Singapore's effort, saying it will do much more to enhance cooperation. He said such practical cooperation will help ASEAN and its partners address impending regional challenges. www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/future-of-southeast-asia/1079450.html