Your Royal Highness
Ladies an Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome our honoured guests to Malaysia for the 30th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. I would like to extend our warm welcome to H.E.. Somsavat Lengsavad (Laos) and to H.E. Ohn Gyaw (Myanmar) who have assumed their honoured places at the Meeting upon the admission of Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar as the eight and ninth members of ASEAN Our heartiest and warmest congratulations to both of you, Sir.
2. My warm greetings go to H.E. Ung Huot. Foreign Minister of Cambodia and H.E. Leonard Louma, Special Envoy for Papua New Guinea, who are attending the rneeting as observers. We shall no doubt have constructive and fruitful discussions with them on matters of mutual interest.
3. 1 would like to congratulate H.E. Domingo L Siazon Jr on his election as Vice Chairman and I shall no doubt benefit from his wise counsel on the expeditious and successful conduct of our meeting.
Ladies and Gentlemen, 4. We are meeting today at a momentous period in the history of ASEAN. Both Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar are now full fledged members and before long Cambodia will take its rightful place in our association thus fulfilling the vision of the ASEAN founding fathers to unite all the Southeast Asian countries under one regional grouping. I would be less than candid if I do not express Malaysia’s own satisfaction to have the admission of both countries into ASEAN coinciding with its hosting of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur. We are deeply honoured with the occasion.
5. The annual ASEAN Ministerial Meetings are rightfully devoted to deliberating the numerous Political, security, and economic issues of concern to members of ASEAN, and to chartering a course of future action that will contribute to the strengthening of ASEAN cooperation and collaboration. They are also a time for reflection of our past achievements, of our shortcomings, if you may, but most importantly, to my mind, of our own commitment to the ASEAN Spirit. I sincerely believe it does not harm our cause if we seek to renew and indeed reinvigorate that kindred spirit of close collaboration. consultation and collective action which will ensure that ASEAN remains strong and relevant in the future.
6. 1 think we have grown used to the praises heaped upon ASEAN. We welcome that recognition and we can be justifiably proud of ASEAN’s achievements over the past thirty years. We have witnessed a massive transformation in the economies of member states and we can boast of some of the highest growth rates in the world. lndustrialisation in several countries is proceeding at a rapid pace and already some of the countries have become the base for many of the world’s high technology industries. Our people have shown that they have the capacity to absorb the latest technology and our workers’ diligence has been singled out as one of the factors that attract increasing numbers of foreign investors and manufacturers to our shores. The governments themselves have been responsible in freeing their economies of the various constraints that had earlier dampened growth as well as providing essential support to industry.
7. As in everything else we also have our detractors. The nay sayers have warned that the realities of economic competition brought about by the globalisation process will perforce create tension an show discord amongst members which may eventually weaken the ASEAN spirit I do not accept such pessimism, It is perfectly legitimate for ASEAN Counts to shape their economies in a manner that brings the most benefit to them. The strengthen and vitality of ASEAN is in the sum total of the economies Of its member states and each countries has to manage its economy well. There has always been a healthy competition among us in the search for markets for our products. The cooperation amongst members in setting up growth triangles in developing areas that had long neglected is proof that the spirit of common, endeavours and purpose is very much alive, Admittedly globalisation will have its pull factors which may distract us but I sincerely believe that non of us would want to sacrifice what we have built in ASEAN for some lucrative advantage.
8. When I said the Founding Fathers has dreamed of uniting all the Southeast Asian countries under the ASEAN umbrella they were of course not thinking of a political union, ASEAN has been able to survive and progress all these years because each member-state has been free to develop politically and economically according to its own national ethos. We do not have a common secretariat that prescribes what policies member governments should adopt in our nation building tasks. And perhaps one of the most important principles that have governed intra-ASEAN relations has been that of non interference in one another’s internal affairs. This principle has stood the test of time and has contributed to the harmony that prevails today. Obviously this does not preclude ASEAN members individually from expressing their views on matters of common concern.
9. The events of the past few months have tested the very principles ASEAN has lived with.The decision to admit Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, has not been an easy one. We had faced great pressure even from our friends, from our dialogue partners, but in the end ASEAN consensus on the issue was arrived at because each one of us remained committed to the founding fathers’ vision of ASEAN 10. Likewise our later decision to postpone Cambodia’s admission has not been taken lightly. A heavy responsibility has now been placed on us : on how best to resolve this issue how best do we handle this difficult problem given the principle of non-interference that ASEAN has prescribed for itself. Whatever steps we may take, uppermost in our minds should be ASEAN’s own interest and the role it should -play in promoting that interest. As I said earlier ASEAN has been instrumental in promoting the close cooperation amongst its members But ASEAN also demands its members, to observe and fulfill certain obligations.
10, Our preoccupation with national building has not precluded ASEAN from engaging actively with the outside world. The respect that the world has shown towards ASEAN is testimony to our active involvement in the search for international peace and stability. Our trading interests with the outside world are enormous and we as a group have contributed immensely toward the establishment of the WTO. We have closely coordinated our positions in the various -negotiations. Together we have resisted attempts to insert non- tariff conditionalities into the WTO agreement. I may say if we had acted singly, none of us would have make much of an impact in the face of the strong pressures and enormous influence of the economic super powers. ASEAN members have also closely coordinated their positions on the various issues before the United Nations and have worked relentlessly to seek reforms in the Organisation that will ensure a more equitable “voice” for its members. We will continue our efforts until these reforms are realised.
11. I firmly believe that enduring peace and stability in any region can only be achieved through consultation and cooperation among the regional players. The ASEAN Regional Forum or ARF. The avenue for security dialogue established by ASEAN some four years ago, has helped to encourage the habit of consultation and cooperation. If allowed to progess at its own pace and according to its own schedule, the ARF has great prospects of developing into a meaningful forum for dealing with security issues affecting the Asia Pacific region. It is in ASEAN’s interest for it to continue to be the propelling force in the forum.
12. It has been agreed that the ARF should progress in stages from the promotion of confidence building to the development of preventive diplomacy before graduating to conflict resolution. It is my view that the ARF has not been able to assume greater importance than it does now because, among some members, military alliances continue to be the priority option in matters of security. Military alliances are by nature exclusive. Regional confidence cannot be established upon exclusivity. The future of Asia Pacific security is better assured by a policy of engagement, not exclusion. The ARF is inclusive. It would indeed be a momentous step forward if the ARF, an indigenous forum for discussing security matters, is allowed to graduate by small steps from confidence building to preventive diplomacy.
13. In the same context. the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty or SEANWFZ must be allowed to achieve its objective. It represents the aspiration of Southeast Asian States to make the region free from the scourge of a nuclear conflict or nuclear disaster. The Treaty has entered into force and its processes will sow be activated. The Treaty is also a declaration of commitment by the ten ASEAN signatory states towards the ultimate goal of the universal banning of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Weapon States should view the SEANWFZ Treaty in its proper perspective, support Treaty provisions and subscribe to its Protocol. 14. 1 have referred earlier to the perceived notion that any ASEAN country acting on its own national interest, may opt for a course of action that may likely harm the interest of its fellow members. This argument has been advanced because we are faced with the realities of the global market place and more Importantly, with the vast opportunities it provides to prosper further. I had said that ASEAN members will eschew any inclination to get short term gains at the expense of its fellow members. On the other hand, there is a recognition by us all that prosperity needs to be shared by all members and efforts must be made to assist the less developed to realize fully their economic potentials. The 1st Informal Summit in Jakarta had adopted the ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation and his initiative, it is hoped, will in due course result in projects that will benefit both the ASEAN and Non ASEAN Mekong Riparian States. I think we now need to move ahead with, some of the more practical projects and if success in what we desire the imparative is us working together.
Ladies and gentlemen
15. The future of ASEAN With its enlarged membership is as bright as we ourselves wish to make it. To fully realise the vision of ASEAN 10 will be a challenge and to make it work as eminently as ASEAN 5 and then ASEAN 7 has been will demand more from all of us.
16. As ASEAN stands at the threshold of the 21st Century, it faces the daunting task of sustaining its dynamism and maintaining its track record. We have done well so far, but success and prosperity often breed complacency. Our task is made more difficult by the more complex environment of the next millennium characterised by the blossoming of the Information Age, globalisation and intensified regionalism. 17. Continued economic -prosperity and political stability can only be achieved by intent and design. This responsibility we cannot relegate to others but to shoulder them ourselves. It is appropriate and timely therefore that ASEAN is now drawing up its own Vision for the 21st century and complete this work by the time the ASEAN Laadiers meet at the informal Summit at the end of this year. ASEAN’s defining views of itself today is that of an organisation that has come of age, ready and able to decide independently what is best for the Association.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
16. We should take pride in the way that ASEAN has evolved over the years, and ASEAN can only grow stronger with the two additional members which have just been admitted. The future of ASEAN 9 will be full of challenges. With our 30 years of experience and continued commitment to ASEAN cooperation we can overcome any challenge. Our responsibility is to chart a course for ASEAN that will ensure its place as the pre- eminent organisation in this region, respected both at home and abroad. ASEAN member states, both old and new, must now resolve that thirty years from now existing problems between them should disappear and new ones prevented from emerging. I would like to wish that when ASEAN celebrates its 60 th Anniversary, every child in the ASEAN region will have a school to go to and be able to read and write. I would like to imagine that disease and hunger have become unknown. I would like to hope That his dynamic group of countries would no longer have any disputes over territories between them. I would like to see a region fully at ease with Information Technology and exploiting to the fullest all the potentials that technology has to offer- But most of all, I hope to see an ASEAN region maintaining its polite culture and traditions in ttie conduct of relations with one another. 19. In conclusion, I would be remiss if I do not mention the very close cooperation and understanding my fellow ASEAN Foreign Ministers and other ASEAN colleagues have given us during Malaysia’s chairmanship of the Standing Committee. I thank you all most profoundly. I must also thank most sincerely the ASEAN Secretary General and his colleagues at the secretariat for the invaluable assistance they have unstintingly provided us.
20. We have before us a heavy schedule, thanks to our ever hard working senior officials. But let that not prevent our honoured guests and delegates, from enjoying their stay in Malaysia.