Dr M: Similarities between Malaysia - Brunei key to stronger ties

Hardi Effendi Yaacob

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the principles of similarities shared between Malaysia and Brunei are among the main elements in strengthening the close ties between both nations.

This, said the prime minister, was a core factor of the relationship, and viewed in the context of ‘good friends’ who have known each other for a long time.

“We speak the same language, albeit with some differences. We share the same culture. It is this sameness which helps bond us, especially in the context of Malaysia - Brunei relations.

“It has given many advantages to both countries, especially in playing an active role in the region, especially in Asean,” he said.

Dr Mahathir was speaking at a lecture titled Malaysia- Brunei Relations in the Asean Context’ at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), on Monday.

Also present were his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali; Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah; and Brunei Darussalam Home Minister, Datuk Paduka Ali Apong.

Dr Mahathir said, in his limited time as the current prime minister, he shared a mutual wish with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah to continue to build on the relationship, not just for the sake of Malaysia and Brunei but also the region.

“In Malaysia, the benefits are naturally enjoyed in Sabah and Sarawak which neighbour Brunei. Many Bruneians do their shopping in the two states as the goods are cheap and the exchange rate favours them.

“This directly contributes to the economic prosperity of the territories in concern, thus underscoring the importance of preserving this relationship, which needs to be strengthened from time to time,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said it was important for countries to maintain good relations with their regional neighbours and for issues to be resolved via negotiations and diplomacy, thereby avoiding confrontations.

“In the Asean context, we began with five nations at its founding and now, there are 10 member states. This creates a vast trade market which can contribute to strengthening the region’s economy.

“Nevertheless, what we can take pride in is that Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia make up half of the region’s population, which can have many positive implications,” he said.

Dr Mahathir and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah earlier took time out to plant a ‘friendship tree’ named ‘Pohon Bahagia’, and also signed a plaque at the Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas to commemorate Malaysia and Brunei’s friendship.

The Sultan of Brunei then personally drove a Hummer H3 buggy to tour the recreational park before the leaders had breakfast, followed by a two-hour discussion at the Istana Nurul Iman. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd