Your Royal Highness,
Colleagues and Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 31st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) has now drawn to a close. Over two days, we discussed ASEAN’s accomplishments in the past year, the challenges ahead and how ASEAN, as a community and an organization, will meet the uncertainties of the future. It was a meeting characterized by an atmosphere of congeniality, frankness, and enduring solidarity among the member countries, which augurs well for stronger and more mature relationships in the years to come.
Moving Towards a more Responsive ASEAN Community
The regional currency turmoil put our resolve to its deepest test. It challenged ASEAN to respond and we did. Individually, we instituted reforms in our financial and monetary structures, and addressed the concerns of our people burdened by the impact of the crisis. As a group, we moved forward with regional efforts to resolve the crisis – through initiatives ranging from the use of regional currencies for intra-ASEAN trade to the creation of an ASEAN economic monitoring mechanism.
Instead of bowing to the pressures, ASEAN sought to enhance its solidarity and cooperation.
ASEAN’s long engagement in Cambodia and its dedicated efforts to contribute to the process of national reconciliation and the restoration of peace and stability in that country will be under the spotlight tomorrow. Our hopes are high that the holding of free, fair and credible elections in Cambodia will enable that country to move forward on the road of peace and prosperity.
We laid the groundwork for regional cooperative mechanism on poverty eradication and rural development, and fostered regional development, including the development of our human resources. We pursued greater cooperation on other transnational issues, including environmental concerns, such as the transboundary haze.
Pursuing a More Secure and Peaceful Future
At this meeting, we all expressed to the world ASEAN’s continuing commitment to friendship and cooperation with other countries, as embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. By adopting the Second Protocol to the Treaty, we have invited non-ASEAN states to accede to the Treaty and, with us, to work for and share in the peace, and friendship in Southeast Asia.
Recently, our region and the entire world were stunned by a series of nuclear tests conducted in South Asia. Those tests threatened the very principles and ideals we are seeking to achieve through the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty. We should redouble our efforts to gain the adherence of nuclear-weapon states to the Protocol to the SEANWFZ Treaty.
This Meeting also provided ASEAN an opportunity to intensify its efforts to eradicate the growing problem of transnational crime. In particular, we expressed our common concern and resolve to combat illicit drug trafficking with our signing of the Joint Declaration for a Drug-Free ASEAN.
Forging a Closer Community
Our common problems have driven us to work together. Trying times call for courageous thinking. And greater openness is a boon to our common efforts.
More than ever, we need unity and cohesiveness in navigating the crests and depths of a rapidly globalizing and interdependent world. We must show the same persistence, pragmatism, dedication and resolve that guided us through the past 31 years, if ASEAN is to remain relevant to the changing and difficult times. Surely, we have to draw lessons front the past but at the same time we must search for the signposts of the future.
Your Royal Highness,
Allow me to express my sincerest felicitations to all ASEAN Foreign Ministers for their contributions to the successful conduct of this meeting. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to chair the AMM, and grateful for the support you have all extended.
I am confident that the next chairman, H.E. Prof. S. Jayakumar, will steer ASEAN towards even greater cohesiveness, openness, responsiveness and dynamism at the threshold of the new century.
Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay.
I now give the floor to H.E. Prof. S Jayakumar, Foreign Minister of Singapore, who will assume the chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee immediately after the PMC on 29 July.