Malaysia supports call for Asean Covid-19 response fund: Foreign Ministry

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/ANN): Malaysia supports the proposal to formulate and expedite access to the Asean Covid-19 Response Fund to assist member states with vaccine procurement and rollout plans, says Wisma Putra.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein concurred with the proposal by Asean chair Vietnam for a collective, regional approach to vaccination.

"Furthermore, the Foreign Minister emphasised the importance of articulating Asean's efforts for an Asean Travel Corridor which underlines inter-regional travel as the core of our efforts to revitalise our economies," he said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 21).

Hishammuddin also congratulated Vietnam for its successful chairmanship in 2020, especially for its significant efforts to rebuild the region from the dire impact of Covid-19.

In his intervention during the the Asean Foreign Ministers' (AMM) Retreat, which was held virtually on Thursday, Hishammuddin stressed on the urgency for Asean to follow-up on the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which was first proposed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in April last year to boost the region's economic recovery.

The Foreign Minister also called on Asean member states to break down bureaucratic red tape and improve on cross-pillar and cross-sectoral coordination to ensure that people in the region receive the required assistance efficiently.

Hishamuddin also thanked all Asean member states for unanimously endorsing Malaysia as Asean's Candidate for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the 2022-2024 term.

At the same time, Malaysia also welcomed the tripartite efforts of Bangladesh, Myanmar and China on the repatriation of displaced persons from the Rakhine state in Bangladesh.

Hishammuddin pledged Malaysia's support to work closely with the tripartite process during the AMM Retreat.

"This much-awaited development would certainly alleviate the situation in the Rakhine state, Myanmar and Bangladesh, and provide the refugees with an opportunity to return.

"The Foreign Minister also conveyed Malaysia's appreciation on the effective mediation role by China in the tripartite process and their offer to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to the Rohingya people in the first phase of repatriation," said Wisma Putra.

He said while there had been ample discussion on the economic fallout from this global pandemic, the toll it takes on mental health is harder to quantify.

Asean must recognise and highlight that mental health troubles are a natural reaction to the pandemic and our governments must be ready to address this, said Hishammuddin.

"As Malaysia is country coordinator for Asean-Australia relations, the Foreign Minister proposed that Asean works together with Australia on mental health programmes for our people affected by Covid-19," the statement added.

Malaysia also reaffirmed its support and cooperation for the 2021 Asean Chair, Brunei Darussalam's agenda and key priorities under the "We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper" theme, highlighting the key focus areas of Mental Health, Youth in Peace and Security and Multilateralism for Asean in 2021.

Hishamuddin also informed his counterparts that the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism was ready to collaborate with Asean to promote the role of youth in our regional future by examining the factors that push youths into terrorism, and strategies to counter the rhetoric propagated by violent extremist groups.

He also expressed Malaysia's heartfelt condolences to Indonesia and the families of the victims of the Sriwijaya plane crash, and most recently the earthquake in Sulawesi.

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