First, let me bid all of you a happy and prosperous new year. That this ceremony should take place at the beginning of the year is propitious and significant. It is a moment that affirms ASEAN’s unique capability for both renewal and continuity.
I am therefore greatly honoured and pleased to preside over the transfer of office of the Secretary-General of ASEAN from H.E. Mr. Rodolfo C. Severino of the Philippines to H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong of Singapore.
On behalf of the Government of Indonesia, I welcome and congratulate H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong I’on his appointment as the Secretary-General of ASEAN, effective on the first of January 2003, for a tenure of five years, in accordance with the Agreement on the Establishment of ASEAN and its
I should like also to take this opportunity / to express our gratitude and appreciation J to H.E. Mr. Rodolfo Severino for a tenure as Secretary-General that has been marked by many achievements despite the daunting challenges that ASEAN had to grapple with when he assumed office.
At that time, the Asian crisis was wreaking havoc on the economies of the region, ASEAN was struggling to maintain its cohesion after a sudden burgeoning of its membership( and the worst haze episode in several decades was smothering the western part of our region.
Since then, ASEAN has not only withstood these challenges but has also gone a considerable way toward economic, physical and organizational integration. We have, moreover, begun to closely link up our economies with those of our Northeast Asian partners. And as the monster of international terrorism reaches out with deadly tentacles into our region today, ASEAN has responded to this threat quickly, comprehensively and in vigorous concert.
In all of these endeavours, the ASEAN Secretariat played a key role under the leadership of Mr. Severino. It is also a fact that ASEAN, as well as its Vision and mission, is better understood today by its partners and by the world at large because of Mr. Severino’s articulate voice.
That is why I am delighted that his successor, our new Secretary-General, Mr. Ong, apart from being a seasoned -and -accomplished diplomat, is also an experienced communicator who has had strong grassroots exposure.
Of tremendous value are the vast experience that Mr. Ong earned from diplomatic postings, both multilateral and bilateral; the familiarity with mass media that he gained as press secretary to the Foreign Minister and later to the Prime Minister of Singapore; and the insights he derived from working at the grassroots level as Chief Executive Director of the People’s Association of Singapore.
For it is essential that we continue to tell the story of ASEAN what it has done and what it is doing to transform the lives of the peoples of our region. It is an authentic and inspiring story, that is worth telling not only to the world at large but also, and even more important, to our own peoples in ASEAN. They must realize the high stakes that they have in the work of ASEAN. And they must be drawn into participating in the great drama of development that is taking place in our region.
Mr. Ong’ s vast experience as a multilateral diplomat will also serve him in good stead as he leads the ASEAN Secretariat in helping the Association address the myriad challenges confronting our region today.
Clearly among the most formidable of these challenges is that of international terrorism for the attacks that teaorists carry out against innocent civilians can be so massively brutal that entire societies and humanity itself are traumatized.
Hence, we must carry out our Work Programme on Terrorism with vigour and resolve. But for this Programme to succeed, and for all our efforts at maintaining security and stability in our region to be effective, we must also be able to advance our agenda for development.
For the terrorist is not just a killing machine without a political goal. He is the salesman of a utopian dream-the building of an ideal regime on the rubble of the status quo. The poor and the socially aggrieved are often driven by despair to buy that utopian dream-which in the end will turn out to be a nightmare of mass murder and destruction.
The only antidote to a seductive dream is a reality that is just as attractive in this case, the reality of development. When reality is sufficient, there is no need for fantasy nor is there occasion for despair. It is therefore imperative that we make our development goals, the goals spelled out in ASEAN Vision 2020, a living reality.
As we gird ourselves for such an enormous task, I believe we need to take a long hard look at our basic capabilities. We should do some earnest introspection of what we have done-and have not been able to do since ASEAN was born thirty- five years ago.
In the first ASEAN Summit held in Bali in February 1976, the Leaders of ASEAN issued the Declaration of ASEAN Concord and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. They also adopted a Programme of Action that so vastly expanded the work of the Association that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers found it wise to immediately create and harness the ASEAN Secretariat.
These watershed decisions gave a tremendous boost to the development of ASEAN. Over the years, however, it seems to me that such development has not been as balanced as our Leaders had intended in 1976. The economic aspect has, by and large been the dominant part of our cooperation.
In October this year, Indonesia is privileged to host another ASEAN Summit, once again, significantly, in Bali. It will then be most appropriate for our Association to take measures to ensure a more balanced development of its work and to strengthen the mechanisms of our
political cooperation so that it can match the demands of the regional and global situations.
This means the strengthening of the ASEAN Secretariat, and the recasting of our decision-making processes so that we can address issues more-squarely and decisively. This also means that we should strive for closer and more constructive bilateral interaction so that we will be more concerted in our work at the regional level.
Because of the vast resources needed in the pursuit of regional development, we are also called upon to strengthen and enlarge the network of cooperation that ASEAN has been building since it was founded in 1967. We have a splendid opportunity to do that when Indonesia and ASEAN bring together the subregional organizations of Asia and Africa in Bandung during the anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in April this year.
It was that Conference of the first generation of Asian and African Leaders in 1955 that gave the world a new ethos for international relations and a new spirit of cooperation among nations. This is the same spirit cooperation that ASEAN has always stood for. And it will be very much in evidence when we meet in Bandung with the subregional organizations of Asia and Africa all strong players in the political and economic affairs of the two continents.
That will be an opportune time for building bridges of cooperation and mutual help between Asia and Africa bridges that will match and complement those that we built with the Americas through APEC, and with Europe through ASEM. And it will be a most fitting occasion for the launching of preparations for the commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Asian-African Conference in 2005.
Another essential bridge that we need to build and maintain is the one between ASEAN and the greatest instrument for global peace and development ever devised by humankind: the United Nations. Having been recognized by the United Nations itself as one of the most effective regional organizations in the world today, it behooves ASEAN to share the burden of the United Nations’ work in our region. At the same time, the United Nations can deliver to ASEAN much of the support that it needs to become even more effective.
All that I have said just now redounds to one thing: a massive load of work on the shoulders of the ASEAN Secretary-General and an ASEAN Secretariat whose resources and capacity have been strained beyond reasonable limits. That is precisely why the ASEAN Secretariat must be strengthened so that it can cope with our need and demands for its services and assistance. The ASEAN Secretariat, I must stress, can only be as strong as we the ASEAN members make it to be.
In this spirit and as always, Indonesia is prepared to extend to the ASEAN Secretary-General and to the ASEAN Secretariat all the cooperation and support that, considering our limited resources, we can possibly give.