On 11 March, the Australian and British High Commissioners co-hosted a reception at the Legislative Council to mark Commonwealth Day 2013.
Also present were six other Commonwealth High Commissioners in Bandar Seri Begawan. Senior figures from the public and private sectors, and young people from many Commonwealth countries, including host nation Brunei Darussalam were also present. Guest of Honour at the event was Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Hj Isa Pehin Datu Perdana Manteri Dato Laila Utama Hj Ibrahim who was accompanied by his wife, Yang Dimuliakan Seri Laila Pengiring Diraja Datin Seri Utama Dayang Hajah Rosnah Binti Abdullah.
The occasion ensured that Brunei played a full part in events going on all round the Commonwealth on 11 March, including those to mark the adoption of the new Commonwealth Charter. The significance of the event was underlined by its venue, inside the Legislative Council.
Guests heard that Commonwealth Day provides an opportunity to reflect upon the diversity and vitality of the Commonwealth. Spanning all continents and major religions, the Commonwealth brings together two billion people in over 50 countries and together, its members can make a real difference in addressing the challenges of today’s world.
This year’s Commonwealth Day also provided an opportunity to celebrate the adoption of the ‘Charter of the Commonwealth’ – the first time the Commonwealth’s values have been encapsulated in a single, stand-alone document. Following agreement by Commonwealth leaders at Perth CHOGM in 2011 to embark upon a Charter, the Charter was developed through a broad consultative process that involved extensive discussions. Commonwealth Foreign Ministers played an important role, giving the Charter their stamp of approval in September 2012 before it was formally adopted by Leaders last December.
Guests also heard a Commonwealth Day Message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth.
Speaking on behalf of Australia as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, Australian High Commissioner to Brunei, HE Mr Todd Mercer, said that adoption of the Charter was an important opportunity for the Commonwealth to stand tall. Australia, in its role as Commonwealth Chair, was proud to have led this process which could not have been achieved without the strong support of all Commonwealth partners.
His Excellency remarked:
The Charter of the Commonwealth will help our citizens, including our younger generation, understand what the Commonwealth stands for. It brings together the values and aspirations which unite the Commonwealth – democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It emphasises the importance of sustainable development and youth. And it recognises the special needs of small and vulnerable states.
British High Commissioner HE Mr Rob Fenn said:
The High Commissioners in Bandar are deeply grateful to Pehin Speaker and all the LegCo personnel who have helped us stage an event which captures the spirit of the Commonwealth; and to the young people here for entering into that spirit. The Commonwealth is a network which aims to stay useful to its members. Most Commonwealth citizens are young. One of the lessons in Her Majesty the Queen’s Commonwealth Day Message is that we should continue to take inspiration from our young people.
Commonwealth Week in Brunei includes an event at UBD on Saturday 16 March. The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) will provide two distinguished speakers: former Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government, Sir David King, who will discuss “Creating a Full-Spectrum Energy Country”; and Professor John Wood, who will speak on how Commonwealth universities become centres of excellence. The event is a great example of how the Commonwealth adds value for its members – in this case, Brunei. We have underlined that point this evening in our Token of Appreciation to Pehin Speaker, which was provided for us by the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Symbolising the Commonwealth’s focus on and commitment to youth, guests heard the views of some of the young people present on what the Commonwealth meant to them. As a climax to the event, the young people assisted the High Commissioners in presenting a token of appreciation to Pehin Speaker and Datin Rosnah.