Remarks At the Ceremony for the Transfer of Office of the Secretary General of ASEAN, Jakarta, 7 January 2008


Remarks by

H.E. Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Republic of Indonesia

At the Ceremony for
The Transfer of Office of
The Secretary General of ASEAN

Jakarta, 7 January 2008


Your Excellency Mr. Ong Keng Yong,
Your Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am greatly privileged to have witnessed with you the signing of the Process Verbal for the transfer of office of the Secretary General of ASEAN from H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong of Singapore to H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand.

Let me seize this opportunity to commend and congratulate Mr. Ong Keng Yong for having done a splendid job of leading the ASEAN Secretariat and orchestrating the many ASEAN activities that helped bring about an exceedingly fruitful half-decade in this part of the world.

At the same time, I am deeply pleased to welcome Dr. Surin Pitsuwan and to congratulate him for taking on a job to which he brings his vast experience as a diplomat. He will also put to good use his skills as organizer, promoter and statesman.  

It is of tremendous significance that this transfer of office takes place at a time when ASEAN is in the midst of a process of profound transformation.  For ASEAN today is transforming itself from the loose association of nations in Southeast Asia into an ASEAN Community that rests on three pillars: an ASEAN Security Community, an ASEAN Economic Community and an ASEAN Sociocultural Community. This means a fully integrated ASEAN, an ASEAN that is globally competitive and faithful to its commitments.

I have no doubt that we can achieve this goal by 2015—especially now that our Leaders have endorsed an ASEAN Charter, the crowning achievement of last year’s fortieth anniversary of our regional organization.

Through the Charter, ASEAN acquires a legal personality that will make us more proactive, strengthen our decision-making processes and help us become the rules-based and people-oriented regional organization we have envisioned ASEAN to be.

Thus ASEAN has come a long way since it was founded forty years ago—at a time when Southeast Asia was an economic backwater in deep political turmoil.

We can be proud of how ASEAN developed and matured during these past four decades. We can be proud of its contributions to the peace and stability and to the economic dynamism not only in Southeast Asia but also in East Asia and the larger Asia-Pacific region.

But ASEAN’s best achievements are still ahead of us. And I feel strongly that we are on the threshold of watershed events in the history of our region. However, we will have to invest time and effort and resources to realize them.

Indeed, the first half of this year will be crucial to the future of ASEAN: Every member of the ASEAN family must now prepare for the ratification of the ASEAN Charter. We must put up the transitional arrangements for the implementation of the Charter.

Together with the ASEAN Secretariat we must all vigorously wage a campaign to ensure that the peoples of the ASEAN region get to know thoroughly and to understand the Charter. They must have a correct perception of how it will figure in their lives and those of future generations… because for that Charter to serve its purpose, the peoples of ASEAN must understand it, love it and own it.

That is what we mean when we say that ASEAN must now become people-centred.

And so there is a lot of work to be done. If we are to be really people-centred, we must have a great deal more people-to-people interaction. We have to be creative to make this interaction meaningful and fruitful.

We also need to address the economic gap between ASEAN members. It is sobering news that intra-ASEAN trade has not been moving forward as expected. But there is good news in the fact that the CMLV nations are showing increased dynamism, with Vietnam leading the way.

We must attend to the political gap between the members of the ASEAN family. Since we are all committed to promote democracy and human rights, we need to intensify the shaping and sharing of our political norms. No issue should divide us. And no issue can divide us if we all adhere to the norms we have shaped and shared together.

We now have an ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint. We must also expeditiously develop an ASEAN Security Community Blueprint and an ASEAN Sociocultural Community Blueprint. And we must implement all three Blueprints in a vigorous and balanced manner.

This means a great deal of institution building, and the design and development of new modalities and procedures. The ASEAN Secretariat must once again undergo organizational development to cope with new and increased demands for its services. And we must strengthen our linkages with dialogue partners.

For even as we strive to transform ourselves into the ASEAN Community that was envisioned by our founding fathers forty years ago, we are also called upon to contribute in significant ways to the integration of the East Asian region.

This is an East Asia that is no longer defined merely in terms of geography or race or culture, but an East Asia shaped by a long-established habit of consultation, cooperation and a sense of a common destiny.  

In effect, what we are developing is a new architecture for the larger Asia-Pacific region. And by now it is axiomatic that ASEAN must remain in the driver’s seat of this journey of political and economic integration, or else the journey will be bumpy and uncertain of reaching its destination.

To remain in the driver’s seat, ASEAN must succeed in becoming an ASEAN Community that is anchored on its new Charter. An ASEAN with a tremendous capacity for continuity and renewal.

That, precisely, is what we have witnessed here today: more than just the transfer of an office, we have just seen an affirmation and demonstration of ASEAN’s capacity for continuity and renewal.

I thank you.