Diverse in experience and united in purpose

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) celebrates its 44th anniversary today, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a message lauded Asean's dynamic role in reaching out to the world outside Southeast Asia to help its people embrace it and face its challenges with confidence.

"All the steps taken over the last few years to strengthen the association's structure through the Asean Charter, have been an expression of that wish.

"In recognition, our annual Asean Day has traditionally given us a moment to confirm it.

"Increasingly, however, it is giving us a chance to do more than that. It is becoming a time to recognise how the wish is taking on lasting substance," His Majesty said.

"Asean has always been a dynamic association. It has been driven by the will of its members to do more than merely respond to the world outside Southeast Asia. It wishes to be part of that world, to contribute to it and to help shape it so that its people can embrace it and face its challenges with confidence.

"Our Leaders' Summits are approving ambitious, far-reaching programmes of action. Every consultation, dialogue and forum emphasises implementation and completion.

"The most dramatic example will take place later this year when Asean chairs the ground-breaking 6th East Asia Summit. We will meet all the great powers of Asia and its close neighbours as partners in the business of the modern world," said His Majesty.

"We will bring to our discussions the strength of a region with clear economic, social, cultural and political objectives.

"We will be building on its past and living its future, diverse in experience and united in purpose," His Majesty added.

Today, Asean Secretary-General, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, and Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr R M Marty M Natalegawa, will be welcoming President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the Asean Secretariat to deliver a 30-minute lecture. Traditionally, the Head of State of the Asean Chair, delivers a lecture on Asean Day every year. Indonesia is the Chair of Asean this year.

The Asean Anthem called "The Asean Way" will be performed by the marching band of Tarakanita School, and the Asean Secretariat choir. The Asean Anthem is an expression of Asean unity. It also strengthens the sense of Asean identity and belonging among the peoples of the region.

The guests will also witness the hoisting of the Asean flag by the Akademi Ilmu Pemasyarakatan cadets. The Asean flag represents a stable, peaceful, united and dynamic Asean, with the stalks of "padi" representing the dream of Asean's Founding Fathers for an Asean comprising all the countries in Southeast Asia bound together in friendship and solidarity.

The 44th Asean birthday is also a historic one. This is the first time Asean Member States, and their participating missions, will raise the Asean flag at their premises concurrently at 8.30am. The Asean Secretariat will similarly raise the flag at its premises in Jakarta.

Dr Surin said, "With the participation of our Member States' overseas missions, we will see the flag flying in various parts of the world. Why is this significant? It reflects the essence of unity in diversity in Asean. While each Member State remains unique - with our separate time zones - we are united in our vision of the Asean Community in 2015."

Dr Natalegawa will also launch the opening of the Asean Batik Exhibition by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, at the Secretariat, after the lecture. This exhibition adds on to the series of public outreach activities spearheaded by the Asean Chair this year, which include Asean Youth Festival, Asean Fun Bike and blood donation drive in the last few months, and soon, the Asean Cultural Festival and Asean Culinary Festival.

Asean was founded in 1967 when the Bangkok Declaration signed on Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as its Founding Fathers. Later, Brunei Darussalam joined in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and finally, Cambodia in 1999. They made up what is today's 10-Member States of Asean, united in delivering the aims and purposes of Asean to, among others, accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region. - Borneo Bulletin (8th August 2011)