KUALA LUMPUR: ASEAN heads of state were treated to a healthy dose of Malaysian hospitality at the 26th ASEAN Summit gala dinner hosted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor last night.
The 10 leaders and their spouses were treated to a delectable Malaysian feast and a mix of traditional and modern performances that reflected the spirit of the regional bloc, first forged 48 years ago.
In his welcome speech, Najib reiterated his vision for a people-centred ASEAN, with the belief that regional integration could only truly advance if the people were fully invested in the process and its outcome.
He said it was with that purpose in mind that the programme for the summit this year, held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, contained interface sessions between leaders and four different groups - namely the youth, civil society organisations, business groups and parliamentarians.
"We are also launching Go ASEAN, a brand new travel channel to showcase the very best of ASEAN.
"At the practical level, Malaysia is instituting programmes which will directly benefit our next generation of leaders, such as the MTCP-ASEAN Masters Scholarship which will allow students from ASEAN countries to study in well-established Malaysian public universities," he said at the dinner attended by local and foreign dignitaries.
Najib led the entrance of the ASEAN heads of government, all dressed in identical Nehru-collared turquoise shirts, accompanied by their spouses.
The night began with Nuance of Rebab Fantasy, a Mak Yong performance that blended traditional Malay music with western classical opera, and ended with a powerful performance by the ASEAN Youth Percussion Group symbolising the unity of ASEAN.