SINGAPORE: ASEAN has embraced “diversity as (its) strength”, with friendships forged on “mutual understanding and respect”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Nov 14).
Speaking at a gala dinner during the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related summits, Mr Lee stressed that this is how ASEAN has stood the test of time, as it strengthens its community and builds partnerships with friends across the world.
“We have laid the groundwork for a more united, resilient and innovative ASEAN, not just for ourselves but also our future generations,” he said. “I hope that we will also pass on to our youth this spirit of camaraderie and unity we have cultivated over the last half century.”
Leaders from the 10-member regional bloc as well as other world leaders are in Singapore for the summit, which ends on Thursday. Singapore will hand over its ASEAN chairmanship to Thailand during a closing ceremony on Thursday.
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Mr Lee added that ASEAN, at its core, is about its people, noting that it is a “family of 630 million individuals, each with a unique set of talents, skills, language, cultural and religious background".
“Regardless of what you will remember of this year’s chairmanship, I believe a common thread of our collective memories is people,” he said.
ASEAN HAS “ONCE AGAIN OUTDONE ITSELF”: PM LEE
In his speech, Mr Lee noted that over the course of the year, ASEAN has been busy with meetings and dialogues to map out and launch significant deliverables that will strengthen the ASEAN community and bring tangible benefits to its people.
“Looking at the list of deliverables ... I think we have once again outdone ourselves,” he said. “This would not be possible without the collective commitment and efforts of our ASEAN colleagues and partners."
He added that the ASEAN leaders have met each other at various ASEAN-related commemorative summits and events no less than six times this year.
“Our officials must have lost count of the number of meetings they have had,” he quipped.
“Through the course of these meetings, we became familiar with each other, and we built an ASEAN spirit that is especially palpable when we see each other at international fora,” he added.
“We have also forged lasting friendships and memories with our external partners.”