My ASEAN House Journey
ASEAN’S Future Is Our Future -“A House with A SOUL thus is the foundation that will bring us together as one BIG ASIAN Family.”
This book is dedicated to ASEAN because Singapore’s future is in Asia, period!
Architect Steve Ryder Comments
3 September 1997
I enjoyed our telephone conversation yesterday. You truly are the inspiration for Jakarta’s unique opportunity to develop a world-class destination mixed-use project and provide a catalyst for future growth. As discussed, KMD remains optimistic that our master plan concept develops with you, can realize the proper development team.
As requested, please find the attached sketch of the basement level. As diagramed, the existing Hotel Indonesia can remain “as is” without a new basement. In addition, please don’t forget the secret to development success of similar large-scale mixed-use projects is master plan flexibility and phase-ability.
We look forward to our project team’s pre-qualification and meeting with them. We wish you well with your next meeting in Jakarta.
Steve Ryder – KAPLAN/McLAUGHLIN/DIAZ
Letter to President Ong Teng Cheong
I am very passionate about ASEAN because I strongly believe Singapore’s future security and stability is with ASEAN or to put it bluntly I do not want Singapore to be used as a pawn by the western power, period! Therefore, I would like to see ASEAN be institutionalized and not keep talking the ASEAN ways after more than 30 years.
Most of the Singapore Government departments ignored me and they said, “If your name is not Prof Tommy Koh you can forget your proposal because no one will give you their ears.” Some out of goodwill or sympathy advised me not to be a ‘smart alec’ and get myself into ‘hot soup’ with the Government because ASEAN is political and we are not allowed to talk politics. Hence, I wrote to all the ASEAN leaders and printed about 8 copies of the architectural concept proposal with the book entitled Asean’s Future is our Future to Philippines Foreign Minister Domigo L. Siazon Jr. by DHL service.
I had also written to President Ong Teng Cheong because I would like to share with him my architecture vision, as he was an architect by profession. Everyone who knew what I doing thought that I was crazy, maybe they were right but at that time after the 1997-currency crisis, I thought that it was the right thing to do as a conscious Southeast Asian to push for the idea of an ASEAN House at Hotel II site.
President Ong Teng Cheong
8 January 1999
Dear President Ong Teng Cheong,
I wish you good health for the New Year and much more to come because I would like you to witness my dream come alive for ASEAN and be the guest of honor to officiate the opening of the ASEAN House in Jakarta.
Life is an opportunity and what you want to do and can achieve is only limited by what you can dream about. I am just an ordinary person, I should be down to earth and work within my limitation, but instead, I like to challenge myself that there is much I can offer to society in term of thoughts and ideas. I have great dreams for Asia, I am writing to you to share with you my dreams and aspirations for ASEAN’s future. I hope you will appreciate my works; I would send a copy of my recent work for your perusal.
In 1994, I saw a great opportunity to realize my vision for an ASEAN House in Jakarta, when I read in the local paper dated August 31st that the Department of Tourism Post and Telecommunications was planning to upgrade Hotel Indonesia and Hotel Wisata. Immediately, I wrote a letter to the Minister to convince him to allow architecture speaks to the people. Art is an ideology with the power to change the course of history, I hope that money is not the deciding factor to secure the tender, instead a great concept design that relates to their culture and heritage should be given top priority. Indonesians moral and spirit are very low, in order to alleviate their pride and dignity as Indonesians, the design of the buildings must create a sense of belonging which will inspire them to believe in themselves as a people and country.
The authority was so convinced by my design concept that they had invited me to form a consortium to tender for the state-owned project that is worth US$500 million. In the design concept proposal, I did not design a new tower for the ASEAN House, because the briefs from the authority ask for a 1000 rooms hotel, instead, I had provided office space for ASEAN in the office tower. We had submitted our tender in June 1997, unfortunately, due to the recent currency crisis, the entire project is on hold until the economic situation improve.
I was not discouraged by the delay, although I had already spent a lot of monies and emotions pursuing this close to an impossible dream. I look at it on the positive side, because every dark cloud has a silver lining. This currency crisis has awakened me to realize that what is missing in the original design is the ASEAN House. In order to realize this vision, I had to replace the new extension of the hotel with the ASEAN House. Instead of 1000 room hotel, now it will be around 600 rooms. (To have the ASEAN House at this venue, ASEAN leaders must suggest and propose to the Indonesian’s authority because only ASEAN has the right to do so and not me.)
I sincerely believe the delay is meant to be, because without this crisis it will be unimaginable even to mention this idea of building an ASEAN House to the ASEAN leaders, what more to try and convince them to accept this proposal for the sake of the future generation. But the climate is the difference now because with the present sentiment it is an opportunity. I believe now they are ready to listen to new ideas. They might accept the idea provided the ASEAN House can generate its own income as a promise; economic sense will take over.
This crisis is a blessing in disguise and an eye opener for all the ASEAN leaders to reflect on their relationship after these past 31 years. They must ask themselves these questions, what did they do right? Where did they go wrong? What are the lessons that they have learned from the past to guide them in meeting the challenges of the future? If their relationship is solid as a rock then why they are not coming together to work out all their differences and problems, instead they are distancing themselves from one another, as though ASEAN has not existed.
I do not know what the ASEAN leaders have learned from this crisis? What I know is that, if ASEAN is going to have a bright future and be relevant to the region, the ASEAN House is our immediate answer to lock the ASEAN member’s destiny, to ensure a peaceful and progressive Southeast Asia. Many people will ask, what can a building do? I will say don’t underestimate it because if you look into the history of the Sydney Opera House you will understand what I am driving at. Now, with a greater understanding what architecture is all about, the authority of Sydney had recalled the original visionary to redesign the interior according to his original aspirations and even honor him by giving him the key to Sydney?
We must give Southeast Asians hope of the future by designing the ASEAN House which will symbolize ‘change’, a new beginning, attitude, mentality and image, in short, a ‘NEW ASIA’ that will foster our cultural identity of brotherhood as Southeast Asians. Isn’t this the vision and aspiration of ASEAN’s founders including Mr. F. Ramos? At the same time, this ASEAN House will also further Mr. Prachuab Chaiyansan’s vision of Southeast Asia to become a close-knit community bonded together not only by common interests but by shared values, identity and aspirations amongst our people.
The ASEAN House will also address the concerns of Secretary-General of ASEAN, Mr. R. Severino that ASEAN’s shortcomings are in the inadequacy of making the people of Southeast Asia feel that ASEAN is relevant to their lives or even aware about ASEAN’s existence. With such a building in the heart of the city in Jakarta, ASEAN will be able to create awareness of its existence and make ASEAN known to the world.
Many people will argue that the timing is not right to have such an ambitious plan. Moreover, ASEAN’s leaders still lack trust amongst themselves, so how could they be convinced to invest in this building. I believe otherwise, because to embark on a development of such a massive building complex, amidst the currency turmoil and economic crisis in the region, will provide the international community a signal that the ASEAN’s spirit, solidarity and strength is very much alive. As PM Goh said, “If ASEAN is not seen to be working together as a cohesive unit, ASEAN will lose some structure internationally”.
ASEAN leader must try to recall why ASEAN was formed? It was formed during the turbulence years of the 60’s to show to the world they were united. Now with this crisis, what must ASEAN be seen doing to make thing right? They should make a brave step by investing in the ASEAN House to pile a strong foundation for the future generations of leaders because ASEAN cannot depend on strong personality to help them move forward, only a strong institution is the answer. In short, what ASEAN is trying to tell the world community by investing in the ASEAN House is that they mean business, so don’t write them off too early.
If ASEAN is going to be relevant to the region and beyond, all the ASEAN leaders must do is to put their heads together. Instead of being polite, they must be frank and honest for the first time in their life. ASEAN’s leaders must be constructive and decisive in their actions, in order to make ASEAN a meaningful Association in the future. The mission for ASEAN in the next millennium should be an ASEAN House just like the United Nation. ASEAN should pile a strong foundation by making ASEAN into a strong, responsible, respectable and powerful institution just like the European Union because this will eventually pave the way for a greater Asia that are China, Japan and Korea.
With a greater Asia, we can tap the future funds from the Spratley islands, since China agreed to develop the islands together. Asia can put aside a certain percent of the funds for future environmental and social purposes because it is very important for Asia to plan the regional development as a team.
We cannot continue to depend on the West for our social ills because the West financial strength is not like in the past. Their currency value had dropped tremendously over the years. Moreover, with the threat of communist gone, they do not see the need to invest so much of their money and resources in Asia, in short, the West does not has the time for Asia. As they openly said, “if there’s a complete meltdown of ASEAN, and if Malaysia were to get aggressive with Singapore or Indonesia and Malaysia would start crossing swords, then US would stand up and pay attention to this region”. I believe by then it will be too late for the West to do anything constructive because history reminds us of the Vietnam wars that we can only depend on ourselves. Therefore, if some ASEAN countries still believe America can come to their rescue, I would advise them to think twice. Instead, ASEAN should build a strong bond amongst them, because this is the best guarantee for stability and prosperity. I believe Asia has reached a level in their developments to enable them to confront and handle all kinds of problems in the region without the approval or interference of the Western power. Now, it is only up to their will to do so.
ASEAN must give confidence to the world community and especially East Asia countries that they had built their relationships based on trust and mutual prosperity. ASEAN must also convince the West that a Greater Asia is beneficial for humanity, they should not disapprove and block such a union, and in fact, they should encourage and support it. Moreover, for ASEAN to realize the vision of one Monetary Fund, they need the economics of the East Asia countries, because their economy is too small to start such a fund.
Asia is the center of the world and Japan is the center of Asia. This mean Japan’s destiny is in Asia and Asia’s security is in Japan’s hands. Therefore, the co-existence of Asia countries depends on Japan foreign policy with America. The stability, prosperity and security in Asia depend entirely on how Japan conducts its foreign policy with America. Since signing the defense treaty with America it seems Japan had created a lot of insecurity and uncertainty in the region, especially in China. Most probably due to this treaty China had reacted by showing their authority by claiming more islands on the Sprately to test America tolerance.
The above scenario had signaled to Asia that the only way Asia can contribute constructively to the world is when Japan can help to create a Greater Asia. By doing so, Japan is helping the world to create a balance of power. Absolute power corrupt as the saying goes, since after the cold war, with only one superior power, America, it is obvious that there is an urgent need for another superpower to emerge to make a balance that is vital for stability.
I am very concerned and worried about ASEAN’s future because ASEAN’s future is also the future of my children. ASEAN is in a very vulnerable position due to the currency crisis. For the first time in ASEAN long history, their unity is being tested. If ASEAN expects the world community to take them seriously, they should not be seen that it is only in good times that they are united. In fact, it should be seen that during the bad times, ASEAN’s spirit is solid like a rock by helping each other to weather the storm and ride out the tide.
It is very sad to witness ASEAN’s immaturity by their constant fight over some differences that they had in the past. They should not allow the past blind their vision; instead, wisdom should take over their sense of insecurity. If only they can look beyond, and are willing to open their hearts and minds, how bright a future ASEAN is going to have. If not the future for ASEAN is very bleak because ASEAN’s leaders are giving a very bad image and impression to the world community and this may threaten ASEAN’s unity and survival. It is high time for ASEAN to have a set of core values to hold them together and also have a sense of purpose and direction about its future for the sake of the future generation.
What ASEAN really needs now is a strong leader, with a powerful vision that will translate into a mission. ASEAN without a strong vision is like without great leadership. I sincerely hope by creating an ASEAN House like the United Nations we can give a sense of leadership to the future generations of leaders because after Suharto stepped down in May, there seems to be a big vacuum in this region. No leader in ASEAN can fill this place except by integrating ASEAN, making it into a powerful institution with the help of Japan.
The greatest awakening during this Asia currency crisis was that Japan seems to be vital for the region stability, prosperity and even security. ASEAN’s leaders had been calling Japan to do more to help the economic turnaround. All these signs had clearly indicated that Japan is indispensable. This had clearly shown that it is high time, appropriate and necessary for Japan to take greater responsibility not only in financial term but also in the political development of the region.
During this recent regional currency crisis, ASEAN looks ill, a pale shadow of its old self-was due to the fact that ASEAN had never been a credible body, because of its non-intervention rule and the puppet-like structure arrangement of the Association by the founder’s leaders. The style created by the pioneer leaders is outdated, as proven during this currency crisis it was unable to cope even with the haze problems, so how can it handled such a huge problem like this currency crisis. This is the 90’s going to the next millennium, ASEAN just cannot continue to run its affairs like in the 60’s, similarly the United Nations cannot continue running its affair like during the ‘Cold War’. The world had changed tremendously after the end of ‘Cold War’ and ASEAN cannot be left behind.
ASEAN must be receptive to change and be prepared to function as an institution, similar to the European Union, in order to be effective and relevant for the future. ASEAN’s leaders must not be seen as using ASEAN to advance individually. ‘Together we stand and together we grow’ and not ‘together we stand and alone I grow’, this makes no sense and logic, then it is better to dissolve ASEAN altogether. The survival of the ASEAN countries can only be sustainable through the intra-regional supportive roles, which would be transmitted to younger generations through a solid foundation and identity, which the proposed ASEAN House is characterized.
I strongly believe ASEAN has to put its own house in order before they can concentrate on building another house so far away. ASEM is important for economic prosperity, but ASEAN is vital for peace and security in this region. Above all, ASEAN is about Asians pride. It is time for Asians to stand tall in the eyes of the West and let the West know, we Asians had arrived and we can handle our problems in a civilized manner. That is why I had sold my private apartment in Orchard road and paid the fifth largest architect firm in America to do the proposal on my behalf, instead of giving it to my children for overseas education. The local architect firms were not willing to help me to bring out my concept design without investors, on top of it they wanted to be paid and own the copyright base on my concept design. Singaporeans are pragmatic people because they do not have time to chase dream or ideal. But the American firm feels they need to help me because they felt that I am very genuine and sincere in my pursuit of a better world. The boss of Kaplan said that my vision is laudable.
Letter to Philippines Foreign Minister Domigo L. Siazon Jr
Hon: Domigo L. Siazon Jr.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs
2330 Roxas Boulevard,
Pasay City – Metro Manila
8 November 1998
Dear Mr. Siazon,
ASEAN House Can Play the Role to Integrate World Cultures
My name is Sunflower Chong and I am writing to you because both of us share the same dream as well as an aspiration for ASEAN. I believe after reading my proposal, which I have spent four years of hard work in Indonesia, you can understand why I should not give up this ‘impossible’ dream. For this dream to be a reality, I need you to join my hand to make it a success.
Mahatma Gandhi gave an advice to his son before he died. He said, “If you believe in something strongly, you have to go all the way to achieve it. In the middle of the journey, if you discover that it is a mistake then you must give it up immediately. But if you still believe it is the right thing to do, then you should pursue it until the day you die.” In short, he was telling his son not to give up if he still believes in it. This is how I felt about the ASEAN House in Indonesia.
As a Singaporean, I truly believe the success of Singapore is when we can make ASEAN number one. I also believe Singapore should lead and yet not leading. To put it briefly, leading in the background and this is what I am trying to achieve for this project in Jakarta.
I had contacted the office of ASEAN in Jakarta and they told me that this project is too big for them to handle. They referred me to Pa Sunjoyo the Director of ASEAN Foundation. After reading my proposal, he was very impressed with my work and he told me that I am one in 10 million. His compliment is very encouraging and made me feel good about myself that I am doing the right work for ASEAN. He asked me to be very patient because for this project to be successful we need to wait for the political stability in Indonesia.
I am very sincere in helping ASEAN to reach its potential and also to contribute to the ASEAN Foundation. If this project can be successful, it can generate US$30 million for the foundation to set it aside for ASEAN Educational Funds.
ASEAN Foundation cannot just depend on the rich members to contribute constantly because some ASEAN leaders might not be happy with such an arrangement. What ASEAN Foundation needs to do is to generate its own income through the ASEAN House by a BOT scheme. Through this scheme, ASEAN House will be able to generate an annual income of US$14 million before tax. The calculation is based on US$20 per m2 with a total rental space of 77,000 m2.
I had discussed this idea with the team of a committee from Hotel Indonesia International. They are prepared to compromise in the hotel design provided this is what ASEAN wanted. So now it is up to me to find a way to reach out to the ASEAN leaders and convince them to support the idea of an ASEAN House on this site. I hope you are convinced by my proposal and thus inspired you to help me to realize this wonderful dream for the people. Indonesia’ authority has very high expectation in me. (They even believe God sent me to them to find a solution to their woes.) I tried not to fail them because they have a lot of trust in me. I felt privileged because I am working alone without the backing of anybody and yet they have so much trust and faith in me that I could deliver. By allowing me to participate in this project in Jakarta I consider myself honor.
This site in Jakarta is a gold mine if ASEAN doesn’t grab this opportunity now; we might not have an ideal site for the ASEAN House when ASEAN is ready for such an ambitious plan. The weak economic environment now is the best time to strike a deal with the Indonesia authority, because when the climate is better the negotiation will be tough. ASEAN might not be ready to build this house now, but if this is really the step for ASEAN to take in the near future, between now and 2010, they should at least convince Indonesia’s authority to reserve this piece of land for the ASEAN House.
Your reply is highly appreciated.
Reply from Philippines Foreign Minister Domigo L. Siazon Jr
REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS
KAGAWARAN NG UGNAYANG PANLABAS
22 December 1998
Dear Ms. Chong,
I note with appreciation your concern for ASEAN and the future of the region, as well as the time and effort you have exerted in developing your proposal of building an “ASEAN House”.
At this special moment, however, when the region is beset with economic difficulties, we have to channel our resources to matters of urgent need, such as efforts to address the economic and social impact of the financial crisis. We expect the adverse effects of the crisis to persist in the next three to five years. As such, this would be the priority for the ASEAN member countries and their respective governments.
As you may be aware ASEAN has adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the Hanoi Plan of Action to implement the vision statement, which provides new direction to ASEAN. These documents contain the goals of the Association and the priority areas and specific projects it will already undertake in the next six years. It further provides guidelines on activities that ASEAN will pursue.
I hope that this would not discourage you from your efforts in helping ASEAN. We welcome suggestions that would realize ASEAN’s vision of fostering peace and solidarity in the region
Very truly yours,
DOMINGO L.SIAZON, JR.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Asia Dilemma – Can We Think?
The Truth Is That Some Asians Think, some don’t. Some Westerners think some don’t. The book Can Asians Think? By Singapore diplomat Kishore Mahbubani might be right if it said some Singaporeans can’t think, but to generalize and stereotype all Asians is quite absurd. The reliance on Confucian values is blamed for causing Asia to have to play catch-up with the western world, but that view doesn’t directly indicate whether a person can or can’t think. Comparing Confucian philosophy and Newtonian physics is like comparing apples and oranges. We have the smarts to realize that to succeed vis-à-vis the western world, Asia must learn the secrets that make the western world of inventing stuff when there are others to do it? This is what would call smart thinking. (Times June 28, 1999)
Shum Ying Loon
I am an ordinary Asian that think a lot. I often asked God, “Why have we lost faith in men by surrendering to our destiny instead of fighting back with our strength and belief? We should make the world as it should be, instead of accepting it as it is. If I am the Prime Minister of Singapore, I will set up an exchange program for Palestinian and Israeli students to help bridge the great divide. Next, I will get the government to pay for the blueprint cost in the total planning and concept design for the ASEAN Headquarter name ASEAN House. Last, but not least, I would set up a committee to look into the possibility to come out with a creative universal spiritual education for the secular schools. Let me share with you what I have written on January 7, 2013, to my primary schoolmate Serene Chen Pui Suan.
“Maybe after viewing this link http://www.dearmmlee.com/whats-your-book/ you can understand me better and why I can’t give up my dreams.” This was her reply, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and visions with me. You are very brave to embark on your journey, filled with obstacles and yet not defeated. May you be able to experience your visions in this lifetime?”
I told her it is not possible to realize all my dreams in my lifetime because besides BELIEF it needs money and power to make it happen. She said that since I know I could not realize it, then why to waste my time and money to chase it. I told her someone has to bring these visions out in the open, if not, then Singapore’s future will be at stake if we still believe that America is our protector! We cannot keep on increasing our defense budget. I would rather invest in the ASEAN countries, especially in aggro.
Serene said, “Ya, 1 small step at a time; soon you will leave footprints for people to remember you. I’ve yet to find my true calling, guess I want to learn to have peace with myself first.” And this was my reply to her on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 12:18 AM
My Dearest Serene,
I don’t need people to remember me but I need Singaporeans to know that our destiny lies with ASEAN especially China. I pray and hope Singapore will not be the venue to start WW3!! As a nation, we have only survived even though we have to reach First world statue. Mr. Goh Chok Tong when he became the Prime Minister he said that he will bring Singapore to the Swiss Standard in 2020 but he did not tell us how he is going to do it? It was not easy for me as an individual to reach the government hence I wrote to the press on April 15, 1999, and express my concern for ASEAN. I have sent to the respective leaders to make my point when PM Goh Chok Tong suggested strengthening ASEAN by road shows.
ASEAN Road Shows Urge
I refer to PM Goh Chok Tong suggestion of strengthening Asean’s stature by promoting ASEAN road shows (ST April 14, 1999)
Thank, to the recent regional currency crisis, it had helped to expose the true facade of ASEAN relationship. The crisis had proven that the 31 years of so-called stability was not due to non-intervention but because once the easy money from the West disappeared, total confidence was washed down the drain. Or a better expression is, without the easy money from the West the “Asian miracle’ was gone with the wind. This clearly showed that Asia needs the West to give them the confidence because they do not have confidence in themselves.
On top of it, nobody cares how ASEAN should evolve because the motto of ASEAN is ‘United we stand, alone I grow’. As shown during this crisis, instead of standing by each other through thick and thin, they were fighting like cats and dogs to the surprised of the world community. Should ASEAN still expect the West to take them seriously and continue to give Asean’s leaders respect and support? If respect should be earned and not expected or demanded, then I believe ASEAN had to work very hard at it.
After 31 years of existence, ASEAN had failed to pile a strong foundation for the Association because Asean’s leaders were too busy making money for their individual pockets. They had failed to understand that there is the need to cultivate strong roots to hold them together by creating a solid structure to support them when there is a crisis. ASEAN had not excelled as perceived to be but just managed to survive because the key mistake of the ASEAN leaders are in their failure to realize the need to nurture talents is more important than controlling the minds of the people.
Therefore, instead of plastic surgery in fact what ASEAN really needs is complete internal surgery, especially mentally – Changing Mindset. ASEAN cannot move forward constructively if they are in constant denial. When are they going to grow up and wake up? Isn’t this currency crisis a wakeup call already? Do they need a war before they take drastic action to strengthen ASEAN? Asean’s leaders should be outwards looking, but they are turning inwards by going around the bush giving excuses instead of taking full responsibility for their failings. ASEAN does not have any more time to waste as they had already wasted 31 years of precious time by being polite to the stage of insincerity even hypocrisy.
Therefore, ASEAN does not need road shows, or ASLAF at the moment because ASEM had been proven to be a failure. The absence of several European nations at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers in Berlin is proving of what I said. Asean’s leaders are shortsighted because they lack vision and understanding to realize as long as ASEAN is not seen as a united force, they will be taken lightly. Moreover, ASEAN must know how to walk before they run, therefore all the effort to make ASEM respectable will be a waste of money, time, resources and energy if Aseam is still not seen as a strong union.
How to make ASEAN a united force? By integrating ASEAN right now and not one minute later! But before Asean could work on it, they must first face the truly hard and painful fact and admit at least to themselves that if not openly that ASEAN had never been a credible body due to its non-intervention rules and its puppet-like organizational arrangement. How is ASEAN going to change this mindset when after 31 years of the ‘Asean way’, they had accepted this attitude and behavior as part of their culture like the Indonesians had accepted corruption, cronyism, and nepotism as part and parcel of their existence? I strongly believe this attitude should be discouraged because as an Association ASEAN cannot move forward. Moreover, it is not healthy for the future leaders to emulate.
Although ASEM seems important and ASLAF with the support of Japan looks credible, but through my observation, I still believe without a single doubt that ASEAN being the roots must be strong because without strong roots how can the truck and branches grow. Therefore, the credibility of ASEAN is vital for survival, peace, and security in the region. Above all, the success of ASEAN is about Asian’s pride. No one nation should try and dilute Asean for their agenda!
Therefore, ASEAN first need is to heal internally by rethinking ASEAN foreign and internal policies. After 31 years in Asean’s history, there had never been any milestones, no defining moments and no historical treaties that have changed the course and nature of the Association. Therefore, without forthright discussions on controversial subjects, ASEAN failed to meet the political and economic challenges taken as a region. In other words, ASEAN must reinvent itself and prepare for the challenges of the next millennium by discarding the old image and make their policies reverent in today contact and make it work for ASEAN. Is that too difficult a call!
To achieve the objective, ASEAN needs to have the ability to institutionalize and provide an identity for regional Association. To instill the spirit of ASEAN into itself, especially for individual and business organization within ASEAN region and beyond, they need a central base or a place they can call ‘home’ where they are free to meet and be together to enable them to foster the spirit of brotherhood. In order for the spirit of ASEAN brotherhood to develop to its fullest potentials, the ASEAN House will be the ideal place to nurture such a spirit.
After 32 years, it is time to create a home for ASEAN and for all Southeast Asians because ASEAN cannot continue to be seen as a ‘traveling circus’.
ASEAN House will embody the region’s spirit and identity at various levels. The architecture and size of the building will blend both symbolic and functioned aspects. To embark on the development of such a massive building complex amidst the currency turmoil and economic crisis in the region will provide the international community a strong signal that the ASEAN spirit, solidarity, and strength is very much alive.
ASEAN needs to show not only to the world but also most importantly to all Southeast Asians that they are serious about Asean’s future by supporting the building of the ASEAN House. Since Brunei and Singapore show sincerity to help strengthen the grouping, though small and harbored no ambition to lead ASEAN, they can still be the catalysts not only in providing ideas but most importantly, due to their financial strength that they can also provide the funds to build the ASEAN House. This action will be very laudable in the eyes of the world community, especially in the hearts of all Southeast Asians.
ASEAN House will lift ASEAN into an entirely new level in terms of regional cooperation and integration, provide the Association a secretarial befitting the size and importance of ASEAN socio-economic and spiritual development. Symbolically the ASEAN House will represent the region’s awakening, committed to developing economic as well as cultural richness from which people may draw pride and strength.
In short, this House is to fill the vacuum left by Suharto to enable it to play a symbolic role similar to the United Nations, in order for the future generations of leaders to have a sense of direction of statesmanship in the running of the association. If the present leaders refuse to make changes by integrating the Association, they will create an obstacle for the future generations of leaders.
Now with the puppet master gone for good, ASEAN should grab this opportunity for renewal. Since the failure of ASEM, ASEAN had invited to support ASLAF, this means Japan support is very important for ASEAN success. Therefore, it is ideal for ASEAN to call upon Japan to help fill this vacuum by playing a catalytic role to rebuild ASEAN confidence.
ASEAN will be a community in control of its own fortunes and destiny. Self-determination must be the first commitment for peace in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN House reaffirm this commitment and reinforce a Southeast Asia that is strong and resilient in all the political, economic, and social and security fundaments. Therefore, ASEAN House will be a symbol of unity and a constant reminder to Southeast Asians to work together to achieve regional economic prosperity and spiritual developments, which are keys to Asean’s success. This means the vital role of the ASEAN House will promote and unite the people of the ASEAN countries on the basis of common interests and objectives to develop and consolidate the identity, spirit, and sense of ASEAN community.
For your knowledge to be in the First world state, Singapore needs great thinkers and creative talents in order for Singapore to excel and what I see in front of me is the MNC since the day of nation-building. Well in one short sentence, I surmise that Mr. Goh Chok Tong is ALL WORDS but NO ACTIONS in nurturing local talents! Because if there is action, he will be giving a hand to Mr. Sim Wong Hoo during his difficult times. Mr. Ngiam Tong Dow told Strait Times Journalists why Singapore should just aim to be solid “second-upper” city. This article appeared on 12 Jan 2013ST. I always believe Singapore should do more, not only for its own people but also for ASEAN like coming out initiate funding for the ASEAN headquarter in Jakarta.
NB: Will only publish the book when I have the money for the editor to edit it.