ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Preparations for Singapore summit making progress
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia ahead of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila next weekend, Foreign Minister George Yeo says, as the grouping celebrates its 40th anniversary, one challenge is to make it and its work better known to its people, especially the younger generation. ASEAN turns 40 on August 8 this year.
So while celebrations have already begun with music and dance, more events are in the pipeline to bring about greater connect among the citizens of the ten member countries.
Mr Yeo says: "Quite a few would be hard put to list all ten members of ASEAN. So we have a lot of work to do to introduce ASEAN to the general population and the younger generation. We must build up this spirit of "sink or swim together" in ASEAN not because we do it out of love. Because if we don't with the re-emergence of China and India on the global stage, we are each poorer off acting singly than acting together.
"Everyone has calculated, all ten countries, each is stronger better off, more secure with an integrated ASEAN than without an ASEAN. And it is for this reason out of national self interest that we have decided that we better pull resources and work towards a community. And to do that we need the software, we need the culture we need the to-ing and fro-ing and the comfort levels."
Would all this have been possible during ASEAN's 40th anniversary if Myanmar had assumed the Chair from Laos in 2005?
Mr Yeo says: "It would have been a problem because Myanmar was pre-occupied with its own domestic political process. There were criticisms from afar. It would have complicated the dialogue that we were having. And it is to the credit of the Myanmar government that they decided not to cause inconvenience to the family. So they bowed out, as a result of which all the anniversary celebrations which ought to have had the Philippines as its venue, (now) have us as their venue."
Singapore will be the venue for a whole host of ASEAN meetings when it takes over the Chairmanship of the grouping from the Philippines in the first week of August.
A key highlight will be the ASEAN Summit in November, which will bring together not only leaders from member nations but also those from countries like China, Japan, India and Russia.
And despite the inconveniences that come with big meetings, Minister Yeo believes Singaporeans will show once again that they are also excellent hosts.
Mr Yeo says: "When the leaders come and the ministers come I hope we would be good hosts. The moment they take the aeroplanes, they arrive at our airport, or cross the Causeway, in the taxis, the hotels the restaurants, I hope Singaporeans will show that we are gracious and hospitable caring people and everyone will be an ambassador for the country." CNA