ASEAN must deliver on its promise of becoming a truly "people-centred" community and maintain its coherence in the face of global power shifts that can cause turbulence, former Indonesia president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said yesterday.
Speaking after being made a distinguished honorary fellow of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas), he said the world was experiencing historic power shifts, as the primacy of the United States wanes and relations between major powers show "signs of cracks".
There are emerging powers that "are becoming more assertive, albeit still in (an) incoherent way", he said, without citing any one power in particular. He had earlier described China as "no longer just an emerging power" but developing as the next superpower, alongside the US. Against this backdrop, it is important that ASEAN becomes "more coherent as a geopolitical and geo-economic entity".
"Our ability to maintain this coherence will make ASEAN more resilient in withstanding the global power shifts, which we hope will be smooth and peaceful, but in reality may involve some turbulence," he said.
Dr Yudhoyono told reporters later that he strongly believes a more integrated community could help ASEAN achieve its goals. He noted in his acceptance speech that the grouping is itself in the midst of a historic transition, with the establishment of the ASEAN Community expected at the end of this year.
He was conferred the Iseas distinguished honorary fellow award in honour of his achievements during his 10 years at the helm in Indonesia.
Iseas board of trustees chairman Wang Gungwu said in a citation at the ceremony that Dr Yudhoyono's experience would be invaluable to the institute.
"Under his presidency, Indonesia achieved an enviable heightened international standing and also managed to maintain good bilateral relationships with countries of strategic importance, in particular Japan, China and the US. I wish to thank him for agreeing to help us in our task to better understand how South-east Asian nations will further enhance the region's place in the world."
Dr Yudhoyono, Indonesia's first directly elected president, served two five-year terms starting in 2004 and left office last year. He is the second recipient of the award since its introduction in 2012, the first being Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
He was accompanied by his wife Ani Yudhoyono and is here also to attend the inaugural Singapore Forum. He will deliver its keynote address today.
Yesterday's ceremony was attended by over 100 people, including Singapore Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Andri Hadi and former Indonesia trade and tourism minister Mari Pangestu.
This article was first published on April 11, 2015.
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