UBD Reinforces Unity at ASEAN 50th Anniversary Celebration

Universiti brunei Darussalam (UBD) with support from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports organised a forum to celebrate ASEAN Day 2017 in the Senate Room, Chancellor Hall, UBD.

With it's theme "Partnering the Change, Engaging the World", the forum organised by the university's Students' Association, Global Affairs and Student Affairs Section celebrated ASEAn's 50th anniversary with a series of presentations and a cultural performance.

Present as the guest of honour was Acting Vice Chancellor of UBD Hjh Rubiah Hj Yacob. Also in attendance was Assistant Vice Chancellor (Global Affairs) Joyce Teo Siew Yean, UBD officers and lecturers as well as students including invited students from other institutions of higher education.

Hj Abdoh Hj Damit, Acting Director of Culture and Arts at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports took to the podium first, presenting "ASEAN: We Are One". To kick off the forum, he taught the audience a way to memorise all 10 of the ASEAN countries in alphabetical order by way of singing to the tune of "Burung Kakak Tua", a popular Malay children's song. He then proceeded to point out how despite the various differences in culture, language and beliefs across the region, there were common unifying elements that characterised ASEAN countries such as rice being their staple food, the high number of lakes and rivers considered world heritage sites as well as bamboo musical instruments.

With regard to the ASEAN motto "One Vision, One Identity, One Community" Hj Abdoh pointed out that the three pillars of ASEAN; Political Security Community, Econmic Community and Scio-Cultural Community all have necessary roles to play in the progress and evolution of ASEAN and its people. "We have lots to share and learn from one another," he said as he reminded everyone that Bandar Seri Begawan is currently the appointed ASEAN City of Culture 2016-2017. The ASEAN City of Culture celebrates ASEAN arts and culture, promoting the region's creative industries through various activities and events.

Associate Professor Dr Jeremy Jammes, the Director of Institute of Asian Studies, UBD presented "Energy, Time and Space in ASEAN", a look into changes in energy use in the region. He showed how the increase in energy output and carbon dioxide emissions, albeit considerable=y modest compared to the rest of the world, has significantly changed the way ASEAN societies see themselves, behave and consequently build the future.

Following up on the previous presentation, Dr Jammes pointed out that increased connectivity in the region has also resulted in the region becoming the centre of activity, demonstrating ASEAN's call of "We Are One".

Dr Dk Hasharina Pg Hj Hassan, Head of the Borneo Studies Netwok (BSN) secretariat, UBD presented "Borneo Matters", explaining that she intended the title to raise important issues pertaining to Borneo as well as to mean that the island has a signifcant role to play in the region.

As the third largest island in the world, Borneo is considered the centre of biodiversity and online searches are quick to pull up sites on travel and tourism, Heart of Borneo as well as those highlighting it as a beautiful tropical paradise. Image searches, on the other hand, summon photos of orangutans, rainforest and indigenous groups. Which brought Dr Dk Hasharina to point out that such elements help to build an overall view of how a person from outside the region imagines Borneo.

"Many outsiders have studied Borneo," she pointed out. "But not so much from within". Given the strategic advantage of being in Borneo, most anthropological studies such as culture and displacement have not been of much interest by researchers residing in it. She took note of the impact of unsustainable conversion of land due to resource mining, deforestation as well as the 1967 Transmigration Scheme where two million Javanese were moved to Kalimantan. This resulted in detrimental effects on the soil, hydrology, geology as well as had a lasting effect on its existing culture.

Despite its startegic maritime position, Borneo still falls short with regards to connectivity as most of the borders require crossing by roads and there is a lack of flights that connect the three countries in Borneo. "This is improving thanks to budget airlines," Dk Dr Hasharina said, also noting that the rise on the middle class in ASEAN people has resulting in an increase of intra-ASEAN travel. "Connectivity is import for the development of tourism," she added.

The forum closed with a fourth year student from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Izzatun Nabilah Khairul Shaffarani who presented "A Young Bruneian's Perspective of ASEAN in 2015" based on her four-month Discovery Year internship at the ASEAN University Network (AUN) Secretariat in Bangkok, Thailand. While she encountered communication problems in the beginning due to her inability to speak Thai, she first saw how language differences can pose a problem to the notion of ASEAN unity. But eventually she learned enough and discovered that it just takes a bit of effort, the youth of ASEAN could actually help contribute to one ASEAN.

One such area is in the sharing of culture. She pointed out that youths have the responsibility to carry their respective cultures with them wherever they go and they have the ability to share this with their ASEAN counterparts as well as globally. In response to the language barrier issue raised earlier in the forum, Izzatun Nabilah lauded the recent launch of the UBD-FPT Global Centre in Da Nang, Vietnam which aims to improve the ASEAN nation's English language proficiency. "This is one of the ways we can improve communication between ASEAN nations," she said.

Through Discovery Year, UBD students have expanded their horizons by participating in internships, studied in partner universities and lent a helping hand in various ASEAN countries as well as beyond the region. In return, the Global Discovery Programme (GDP) attracts foreign students to learn more about Brunei Darussalam, allowing them to experience the Sultanate first hand.

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