‘Asean way’ not possible this time’ around

PUTRAJAYA: This year’s Asean Summit will not see leaders, ministers and officials having deep discussions along the corridors or at a quiet corner over coffee.

What is described by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as the “Asean way” – where physical interactions have at times serve as the key to resolving issues and decision-making – will not be put to use in today’s meeting.

For the first time, the meeting of Asean leaders, to be hosted by Vietnam, will be held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hishammuddin admitted that while a virtual summit could not be avoided, the downside of it was that the Asean way of doing things, which is to interact face-to-face, would not be happening.

“Many issues were decided along the corridors, over coffee and meals. For instance, an informal meeting over dinner among Asean foreign ministers will usually set the tone for the summit.

“This year, our so-called informal session was via video conference and that takes away a bit of the strength and uniqueness of Asean. But at the end of the day, we are not allowing the pandemic to stop us from getting the work done for the good of the region,” he told reporters yesterday.Hishammuddin said the meeting would among others discuss comprehensive recovery efforts following the impact of the Covid-19, including cross-border travel between two neighbouring “green” countries in the region, known as “green bubble”.

He said the movement of people was important to kickstart tourism and regional economies.

“However, this must be accompanied by standard operating procedure (SOP) as we must ensure the safety of the people.”

The “green bubble” or “green lanes” concept involves easing travel restrictions between two or more countries where local infections and cases are low.

For example, Singapore is said to be in talks with several counties, such as Australia, China and South Korea, to establish such “green lanes” among them.

Malaysian health authorities said that it would only consider introducing the “green bubble” concept in easing the country’s cross-border travel when the Covid-19 infections come under control during the recovery movement control period.

In discussing the reopening of borders with his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan, Hishammuddin said both countries agreed on a step-by-step approach with SOP and health guidelines in place.

To a question, he said Wisma Putra would facilitate arrangements and diplomatic relations should the Home Ministry decide to allow Myanmar to repatriate its people who are here without valid documents.

“Wisma Putra will wait for the Home Ministry to decide on the matter,” he said.

Hishammuddin was responding to reports that Myanmar has asked for Malaysia’s assistance in repatriating illegal workers following reports that eight suicides of undocumented migrants from the country had taken place.

By MAZWIN NIK ANIS.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/26/asean-way-not-possible-this-time-around#cxrecs_s

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