[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, August 07, 2009

[ASEAN Day Reception]

Fellow Citizens of ASEAN,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join everyone here this evening to celebrate ASEAN's 42nd birthday. It is especially wonderful to see so many young people here because, if we succeed in gradually forging an ASEAN community, it is the young people who will feel a greater sense of ASEAN citizenship than their parents.

2 In 2007, ASEAN Member States decided to celebrate ASEAN Day together. After 42 years, we take some satisfaction in ASEAN’s success as a regional organisation, perhaps the most successful among developing countries. Although we are diverse in many ways, we do share much in common. With the ASEAN Charter now in force, we are all learning to sing the ASEAN Anthem with one voice. Not quite with one voice yet. I think for future ASEAN Day celebrations we should have karaoke so that all of us can learn the words and remember the tune.

3 ASEAN has indeed come a long way. It has helped maintain peace and stability in the region, promoting year by year greater political and economic cooperation. ASEAN has created favourable conditions for the development of our peoples. We have responded well to challenges like the Asian Financial Crisis, SARS, the Boxing Day tsunami and Cyclone Nargis, each time emerging stronger as a result. Two weeks ago in Phuket, ASEAN Foreign Ministers in a spirit of compromise took a major step forward and endorsed the formation of the Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission. Three years ago, this would have seemed highly improbable.

4 In March this year, ASEAN Leaders adopted a Declaration on the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community by 2015. But for ASEAN to succeed, our peoples must also feel a growing sense of common ASEAN citizenship. The ASEAN Community has to be built both top down and bottom up.

5 We should encourage ASEAN youths to become familiar with the region as a whole, its geography, its history and culture, and develop an affection for Southeast Asia. This has to be done in a practical way through experience, through travel, student exchanges, joint projects, song contests and other activities. One example is Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s co-organisation of this ASEAN Cinematic Showcase with the Foreign Ministry. Tonight’s finale film, a heartwarming Indonesian movie called Rainbow Troops, is but one of five films showcasing and celebrating the cinematic talent and diversity of ASEAN.

6 Later this month, a student forum will be held by NUS and SMU as part of our celebration of ASEAN Day. We must progressively widen the circle of participation and the range of activities so that ASEAN is in both our mind and our heart.

7 We are very fortunate to have the goodwill of all our major partners. In Phuket, we celebrated the accession of the US to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and we look forward to the European Union (EU) doing so. There is work to be done because of the nature of the EU. It is technical in nature. That should complete the circle of important friends that have all acceded to the principles of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. It is our good forture that all of them want us to prosper, want to see us more integrated and want us to do well because our integrity and our success will in turn help make their relations with one another in this region easier.

8 Happy ASEAN Day!

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