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Published: Monday January 26, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday January 26, 2015 MYT 8:06:48 AM

Host of Asean issues to ponder on at KL meets

IN case you don’t already know, Malaysia is Asean chair this year.

What does this mean?

As the chair is rotated among the member countries annually, Malaysia gets its turn every 10 years and that means Kuala Lumpur will host several major Asean meetings between April and November.

And for members of the public, they will see the likes of regional and world leaders like Barack Obama (yes again but only in November) under one roof as they gather for the Asean summit.

In fact there will be two summits, the first one involves just the 10 Asean countries while the other is when these 10 leaders meet their dialogue partners from China, the United States, Russia, the European Union and Australia, to name a few.

Expect the traffic to get worse in the Klang Valley especially when these leaders are in town.

And for the folks in Langkawi, get ready to welcome the 10 Asean leaders on the island because word has it that the Government has decided to stick to its earlier decision to host the leaders’ retreat there in April.

For whatever reason that decision is made, the presence of the leaders will surely boost tourism for the mystical island, although their meeting would only be for a couple of hours.

But seriously, it will be a logistical nightmare for the organisers, in this case the Foreign Ministry and related agencies. They will have to divide the April summit into two locations, first in Kuala Lumpur and then in Langkawi, all within a 24-hour span.

It will be a massive headache for sure having two locations, as well as the necessary security and transportation arrangements.

Last but not least the mobilisation of hundreds of people to make sure the retreat runs smoothly.

In fact this is the first time the host government is holding the summit’s two sessions — the plenary and retreat — in separate places. While the plenary session is more structured where leaders read out prepared statements, the retreat is meant for the leaders, accompanied by just one official each, to be in a more relaxed atmosphere to raise any issues that they want.

One of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s promises as Malaysia took over the chairmanship from Myanmar last year was to make Asean more appealing to the general public.

“Many still cannot relate to Asean and its significance, they are still unable to appreciate Asean,” Najib told reporters back in November.

It is work in progress really. For a start the ordinary man is aware of the Asean brand.

But do the people of Asean take any pride in the region and have a sense of belonging?

Wisma Putra’s deputy director-general of Asean Zamruni Khalid, at a media briefing last week, spoke about steering the grouping closer to the people.

More outreach programmes are being planned and at least a new element will be added this year – the Asean youth summit which is aimed at creating greater integration among the youth and to encourage more active communication among the people.

Back in 2009, Asean leaders decided to establish the Asean Community 2015 with the objective of strengthening regional peace and stability.

It was also aimed at transforming Asean into a competitive region, with equitable economic development as well as to help promote a people-centred and socially responsible community.

There were more than 600 action lines set for the three pillars that make up the Asean Community – economic, socio-cultural and political/security.

The good news is that all three pillars have achieved more than 80% of the implementation rate.

The question now is how do the 10 members finish the remaining action lines before the end of the year that will see the launch of Asean Community 2015.

And once achieved, what is next for the region as it becomes one?

So it is back to the drawing board to decide Asean’s post 2015 vision and what will be in store for the next 10 years.

The Asean foreign ministers are holding their retreat in Kota Kinabalu this week and in March, it will be the Asean economic ministers’ turn in Kota Baru.

The post 2015 vision will be among the issues that will be discussed.

As officials and ministers sit and ponder what the plans will be for the period beyond 2015, it’s best to remind them that since 2005, Asean leaders had been talking about introducing more people-centric approaches.

A decade has passed and as the realisation of the Asean Community gets nearer, they need to ask themselves why there is a need to create an Asean community?

Efforts should be geared towards creating positive changes in the livelihood and wellbeing of people in the region.

Dare we dream of a bold, inclusive and forward looking document for post 2015?

Tags / Keywords: Asean summit

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Host of Asean issues to ponder on at KL meets

26 January 2015

IN case you don’t already know, Malaysia is Asean chair this year.

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