MiDAS – KAS Conference Report 2021 - Auslandsbüro Malaysia
The MiDAS – KAS Conference 2021 was held virtually in Kuala Lumpur from 2-3 November, 2021 entitled, “Maritime Security Amidst Contemporaneous Challenges towards a Peaceful Sea”.
Welcoming remarks by the Director General of MiDAS, Mr Noor Hisham bin Rosle, was followed by a keynote address by the Deputy Minister of Defence YB Dato’ Sri Ikhmal Hisham bin Abdul Aziz. The conference addressed several timely and important topics under broad key themes: Challenges for a Maritime Nation Today; Existing Maritime Laws, Policies and Challenges; and Economic
Impact of Maritime Security. About 368 participants worldwide, including thought-leaders and other experts and executive officers representing various government departments, especially from defence, national security, healthcare and related agencies; academia; research and think-tank organizations; the diplomatic corps and other international agencies, all from six countries, joined the two-day, hybrid virtual international conference, leveraging on flawless, state-of-the art technology.
In the light of the new Coronavirus variants emerging and taking cognizance of the health and well-being of all participants and the larger populations, the organizers capitalized on this new, hybrid technology and produced, for a second year running, a timely, virtual conference, broadcast live from Kuala Lumpur.
Prior the conference, the modern virtual conference technology enabled potential participants to access the exhibition provided by MiDAS on Malaysia’s Defence White Paper and the “online lounge.”
The South China Sea is fraught with rising maritime and related tensions. This sea and the lands surrounding it is under the radar of not only the littoral states but also of many big powers seeking to both support the region’s development and also to draw benefits from the region: rich natural resources in the sea, including hydrocarbon and minerals, and oil and natural gas. Age-old debates about which country owns which parts of the sea, observing code of conduct at sea, incursions into disputed territories by various countries, emergence of military infrastructures and the rise of other alarming activities at sea, including pollution. All these are increasing tensions in the region and need to be addressed in diplomatic fora with solutions to garner peace and tranquillity for all nations concerned.
The conference organizers pulled together a brilliant line-up of experts involved in the planning and deployment of critical aspects of maritime affairs to discuss the issues confronting the stakeholders of developments in the South China Sea and the Indo- Pacific region. The thrust of the deliberations was how to progress forward in a diplomatic and constructive manner. The lively interaction with panellists fielding questions from local and international participants after each key session, broadened the discussion on the important topics. Virtual polls on key issues were conducted to ascertain the participants’ response to the key issues raised at the conference.
The moderator also invited the participants to engage in raising their concerns to the speakers by using the public chat facility in the virtual conference.
After welcoming remarks and the keynote address, the presentations and deliberations were covered under three key themes over the two-day international virtual conference.
Session one covered the Challenges for a Maritime Nation Today and featured perspectives from First Admiral Fadhil Abdul Rahman, Senior Director, Development Planning of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN); Haji Adi Ihram bin Dato Paduka Haji Mahmud, ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM-Working Group Leader (Brunei); and H.E. Michalis Rokas, Ambassador of the European Union to Malaysia. Their varied presentations, painted with a broad brush, depicted the whole range of maritime challenges affecting the Southeast Asian region and how countries as far off as in Europe pay keen attention to issues in the Indo-Pacific.
Session two featured Assoc Prof Dr Salawati Mat Basir, Legal Advisor, National University of Malaysia (UKM); Dr Arron N. Honniball, Senior Research Fellow, The Max Planck Foundation, and Maria Pia Benosa, National University of Singapore’s Centre for International Law. They examined many key aspects pertaining to Existing Maritime Laws, Policies and Challenges. In this segment, participants heard the latest developments in jurisprudence of the seas, what areas need greater attention, and possible solutions to further protect the rights of littoral states, and humanitarian challenges and safety at sea.
Session Three, entitled, Economic Impact of Maritime Security, delved into fisheries with a substantial focus on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) within national sea territories and in the high seas. Presenting a wide variety of perspectives on these issues were Haji Mohd Sufian bin Sulaiman, Deputy Director General of the Fisheries Department of Malaysia; Datuk Dr Sabirin Jaafar, Director General of the Malaysian Institute of Maritime Affairs (MIMA); Peter Horn, Project Director of International Fisheries, The Pew Charitable Trusts; and Dr Naporn Popallanachai, Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, Thailand.
Session Four, entitled, Human Security at Sea, reviewed the myriad challenges in maintaining international peace and security in the South China Sea, and to keep it accessible and safe for seafarers, including for shipping and commerce. In this segment, participants heard excellent presentations from Vice Admiral Dato Aris Adi Tan, the National Task Force Commander; Mr. Francois Kernin, Head of the Regional Mixed Movement Unit in the UNHCR’s Regional Bureau; and Ms. Jane Chan Git Yin, Senior Fellow, Coordinator of the Maritime Security Programme, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technology University. It was clear that a comprehensive
management approach to sea and ocean security was imperative to ensure regional stability, safety health, and prosperity.
In his closing speech, Dato’ Sri Muez bin Abdul Aziz, Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence Malaysia, emphasized that dialogues and forums on maritime security are pivotal in sustaining peace and security at sea, and underscored that these initiatives should be a continuous effort. To meet the on-going challenges, countries must collaborate and cooperate, he said. According to him, working together, not in silos, is the key to achieving the desired results of maintaining peace and security at sea and in the region as a whole. Dato’ Sri Muez also called on ASEAN member countries to continue engaging with each other and with other multilateral entities to navigate the complex geopolitical landscapes of the region, leveraging on technology and information sharing.
He thanked MiDAS and KAS, the conference organizers, for their diligent and efficient work in presenting such an important conference despite the challenges of the on-going health crises, and gave kudos to the participants for their staunch engagement over the two-day virtual conference.
Dato’ Sri Muez was hopeful that in the future a sequel to this virtual conference could be hosted in Kuala Lumpur so that presenters and participants could meet and engage in person.
Note: To assist readers, bio sketches of the panellists and role players appear at the end of this publication, along with a webliography on the topics covered in this conference, and a list of acronyms used in the presentations.