ASEAN hopes to expedite code of conduct on South China Sea

Above, foreign ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting retreat in Singapore. Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN. (Reuters)
Updated 07 February 2018
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ASEAN hopes to expedite code of conduct on South China Sea

SINGAPORE: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is hoping to expedite negotiations on a code of conduct with China for the disputed South China Sea but it isn’t realistic to expect an agreement within a year, Singapore’s defense minister said on Wednesday.
China and the 10-member ASEAN bloc adopted a negotiating framework on the code in August and have commenced talks on the code itself over the disputed and busy waterway largely controlled by China but also claimed by some ASEAN states.
“We hope it will be expedited but it’s a very, very complex issue,” Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters after a gathering of ASEAN defense chiefs.
“It’s a century’s old dispute. Expecting (the code) in one year is just unrealistic,” he said.
ASEAN and China have hailed the conclusion of the negotiating framework as a sign of progress.
However, the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding raised doubts about the effectiveness of the pact.
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN, some of whom have sparred for years over what they see as China’s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Tuesday some of his ASEAN colleagues had expressed concerns about ongoing activities by China in the disputed areas of the South China Sea, including land reclamations.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.
Singapore has taken over the role of chairing ASEAN for 2018 and hosted meetings of the group’s foreign and defense ministers this week.


Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

Updated 23 May 2019
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Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

  • The vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month
  • Sultan Mosque was designated a national monument in 1975

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s Sultan Mosque is a focal point for Muslims in the cosmopolitan city-state and the vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month of Ramadan when people from all walks of life flock to its bustling bazaars.

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s “Muslim Quarter” with a mix of Malay, South Asian and Middle Eastern elements. Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim, according to the latest official data.

Arab Street — an area that includes Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street — is a hub for hipsters, vivid murals, Persian rug stores, shisha bars, perfumeries and textile shops, as well as being home to the distinctive golden domes of the Sultan Mosque. There is even an ornate archway welcoming people to explore the neighborhood and its distinctive shophouses, buildings that were used for working and living in. 

“We are more like brothers and sisters, rather than businesses. I know most of the customers and they know me too,” a 36-year-old biryani hawker who gave his name as Nareza told Arab News as he served a line of hungry clients.

Nareza said his stall’s signature dish was mutton biryani, made from a family recipe handed down through generations from his late grandmother. 

FASTFACT

Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim

“Dum biryani is a process of mixing meat and rice together in one pot, so the rice has a bit of the masala taste while the meat has a bit of the basmati rice fragrance,” he said, adding that he sold more than 300 portions of biryani a day. “I learned to make biryani from my father, who used to do charity work in the mosque. We make our own spices, we do not buy them from outside vendors. That is why the taste is different.”

The bazaar is packed with places selling food, drinks, decorations and homeware. The fare reflects Singapore’s international status, with eateries and stores selling kebabs, sushi and local Malay goodies.

But Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and having a fast-paced lifestyle, leading some to focus on preserving culture and heritage for future generations.

“We want to create awareness about the significance of Sultan Mosque to the Muslim community,” juice stall owner Riduan told Arab News, saying all sale proceeds were donated to the Sultan Mosque. “Arab Street is unique because you see a lot of different races coming here and it is also a tourist attraction. This is where we demonstrate we are Singapore society. Singapore is not just limited to skyscrapers such as Marina Bay Sands.”