39th General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly

No consensus reached on sensitive matters

Mr Charles Chong (seated, centre), leader of the Singapore delegation, along with the Republic's team at the signing of the Joint Communique for the 39th Aipa General Assembly yesterday.
Mr Charles Chong (seated, centre), leader of the Singapore delegation, along with the Republic's team at the signing of the Joint Communique for the 39th Aipa General Assembly yesterday.PHOTO: PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE

But committees on social, economic and women issues pass 25 resolutions

Asean parliamentarians reached an impasse on sensitive political issues at the 39th General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa), with no consensus reached by a committee formed to discuss them.

These issues included maritime security cooperation, regional terrorism resilience and the humanitarian situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Aipa comprises all 10 Parliaments of Asean and holds a yearly forum, where members exchange views and specific committees discuss and adopt resolutions on regional matters.

This year's assembly, which ended yesterday, was hosted by Singapore's Parliament over four days at the Raffles City Convention Centre. About 350 delegates attended the forum.

While none of seven mooted resolutions was adopted by Aipa's committee on political matters, Singapore's Speaker of Parliament and outgoing Aipa president Tan Chuan-Jin said it is important that member countries were able to meet to discuss difficult issues in the first place.

No political matters committee was formed at last year's general assembly in the Philippines as the countries could not agree on an agenda.

"The fact that we are prepared to set aside our differences and come together to discuss them, that is an important point to register," said Mr Tan at a press conference yesterday.

He did not say which issue was the most difficult, but said the delegates agreed on many points and were ultimately unable to come to a consensus due to technicalities such as the wording of the resolutions.

Bukit Panjang MP Teo Ho Pin, who chaired the political matters committee, said the discussions on Wednesday had been "the most engaging" one in the forum. The discussions were closed to the public.

"Based on the principles of Asean, we looked at the resolutions we discussed, and we have quite a number of common areas which we agreed upon, and straight away we knew that the countries have different viewpoints too.

"That is the reason why there was no consensus in the resolutions," said Dr Teo.

Committees on social, economic and women issues were more successful in passing a range of resolutions.

Unanimous agreement is needed to pass a resolution. A total of 25 resolutions were passed in the four days.

The committee on economic matters, chaired by Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa, saw Aipa countries commit to strengthening cooperation in cross-border data flows for cyber-security reasons, and addressing the impact of trade tensions between the United States and China as a region.

The Women Parliamentarians of Aipa, chaired by Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim of Aljunied GRC, passed two resolutions on promoting women entrepreneurship and empowering women through harnessing technology at work and school.

SETTING ASIDE DIFFERENCES

The fact that we are prepared to set aside our differences and come together to discuss them, that is an important point to register.

MR TAN CHUAN-JIN, Singapore's Speaker of Parliament and outgoing Aipa president, at a press conference yesterday.

The committee on social matters, presided over by Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak, also saw delegates resolve to promote digital literacy and combat fake news.

Dr Lim said the discussion focused on information-sharing among member Parliaments as the emerging threat of fake news is new to the Asean Parliaments.

With all 10 Aipa members signing a joint communique yesterday, Mr Tan said the next step is for the individual countries to adopt the resolutions in their own way.

He added: "The key thing is that we are all committed... A lot depends on our own governments in the respective countries and working together with them.

"Importantly, our role as parliamentarians is to represent these ideas and views for our people. As many of these things go, it is not just policymakers who pass policies. You do need the will of the people to be involved."

The next Aipa General Assembly will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in August next year.

Correction note: A previous version of the story said that last year's Aipa general assembly was in Laos. It was in the Philippines. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2018, with the headline 'No consensus reached on sensitive matters'. Print Edition | Subscribe