[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 08, 2008

[ASEAN Day Reception]

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Boys and Girls,

1. Let me first welcome everybody to this ASEAN Day reception, celebrating ASEAN's 41st anniversary. I am particularly happy to see so many young faces in the audience because it is the younger generation who will give life to the ASEAN Community we envisage.

2. Sometimes, those who do not know the region dismiss ASEAN as being little more than a talkshop. It is true that there are a lot of meetings, more than six hundred a year. But these meetings are important because they facilitate cooperation in the region. They not only create a growing common economic space, they also promote greater trust and understanding among leaders, ministers, parliamentarians, officials, businessmen, academics, artists and many others, including students. Yes, we have problems, but without ASEAN, these problems will have a sharper edge and be more difficult to overcome. Just recently, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers helped to ease tensions at the Cambodian and Thai border even though the risk of a flare-up remains high.

3. The most important achievement of ASEAN is the peace that it has helped to foster in Southeast Asia in the last four decades. Peace should never be taken for granted. We have only to look at other regions in the world to know how rare and precious it is. Little by little, ASEAN has built a framework within which the countries of Southeast Asia are able to work more closely together and resolve disputes. This ASEAN framework of peace and cooperation has enabled us to concentrate our energies on economic development.

4. It is common challenges which strengthen ASEAN. The Cold War created ASEAN in its early years. The ASEAN financial crisis, SARS, the Boxing Day tsunami and Cyclone Nargis were all crises which ASEAN overcame and grew stronger as a result from. Looking ahead, the challenge of a rising China and India will unite us further. We have no choice. In a globalised world, each of us by himself carries too small a weight on the scale of international affairs. Together, our views and our interests have to be taken into account by the major powers.

5. For the ASEAN Community to be built, our people must increasingly internalise a sense of ASEAN citizenship. ASEAN has to be built both top down and bottom up. It is important that more and more of our people know that ASEAN is there working on their behalf, on our behalf. This cannot happen overnight. We must pay particular attention to the young as it is important that each succeeding generation feels more for ASEAN than the preceding generation.

6. We must enthuse the young in ASEAN, and make the idea of ASEAN cool and exciting. For ASEAN's 40th anniversary celebrations last year, we organised activities that reached out to the young including an ASEAN Rock Festival, exchange of postcards by schoolchildren and an ASEAN crew that sailed around the world.

7. And that is also why I am pleased to launch, for this year's ASEAN Day "What Makes Me Happy", a collection of drawings by children from all the ASEAN countries. This is an initiative of Singaporean artist Peter Zhuo. Let adults draw inspiration from the hopes of children.

8. Because of our open economy, Singapore is a microcosm of ASEAN. All the countries of ASEAN are represented in our public and private sectors in a major way, in every school, polytechnic, university, research institute, cultural group, indeed in every sector of our economy. In a sense, what Singapore is, all countries of ASEAN will eventually become, in the way ASEAN nationalities mix and work side by side in peace and harmony.

9. This year’s ASEAN Day is also the day the Summer Olympics open in Beijing expressing the hopes of all Asians for a better tomorrow. This coincidence on 8/8/08 adds to our celebration.

. . . . .

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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