September 9, 2016
ASEAN must find its moral fibre univocally
by J.D Lovrenciear
The 29th ASEAN-US Summit in Vietiane, Laos refers. When the ASEAN leaders return to their respective lands, that which should be univocally reveberated in the Asean belt is that need to stand up for all ASEAN citizens even it means telling the US or any other power a thing or two about the ASEAN priority.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia is reported in the country’s news agency, Bernama, (September 8, 2016), commenting on the visible absence of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the ASEAN-US Summit.
Najib said he did not ask about it, but he believed that Duterte might have skipped the summit as it would be awkward and uncomfortable for him to face Obama after the controversial incident involving the two leaders.
However, Najib said Duterte attended the 11th East Asian Summit (EAS) held later. Well, for an ASEAN leader to hint a putting down of his fellow colleague by stating that Duterte could not “face Obama” is rather against the very spirit of ASEAN sentiment.
Rodrigo Duterte–Proud to be Filipino
According to the Malaysian Prime Minister who is commented upon, worldwide, for his buddy golfing with Obama not so long ago, “Duterte also showed him pictures of the increasingly serious drug-related problems in the Philippines, as well as pictures from the colonial era, in which thousands of Filipinos were killed by the US and Spanish armies.”
Bernama reports that “Najib said Duterte questioned the human rights bandied about by the US while many of the people in Philippine were killed by the US army.”
And that “Duterte also stressed that the values of human rights should not apply to drug dealers who killed, intimidated and raped the citizens of the Philippines”.Of course, even if Najib is coy about stating the obvious (probably out of fear of upsetting his golfing buddy the Democrat leader of United States), Duterte had noticeably stolen the limelight at the ASEAN Summit.
And the Filipino citizens can be very proud of their President. It certainly is not a case of Duterte shying away from Obama but a stance to get the message across loud and clear in the best interest of Filippinos. That is the hallmark of a charismatic and genuine, humble leader.
ASEAN member nations’ leaders must make a big turn around. They must recognize what Duterte has singlehandedly achieved must stand in support of raising the ASEAN image, reputation and the dignity of this third world block of humanity.
For a long time, and particularly since the continued reign of the Democrats’ dominance in the US, third world nations as is in the case with ASEAN, have demonstrated a sense of looking up to that ‘big brother’ the US. Times are changing. Russia, India and China are increasingly demonstrating their mutuality in economics and geopolitical stances.
Given their combined ecomomic strength in terms of the propensity of their combined domestic markets and increasing trade deregularization as well as cross border infrastructure undertaking, ASEAN member nations must have the strength and trust in each other to champion the ASEAN people’s combined interests first and foremost.
Rodrigo Duterte has shown the way. The US is as guilty as other global powers for the many atrocities committed against third world nations. Its self-centred (the Democrat’s economic model) pursuit of the TPPA for example is an example of how the US can be deaf and blind to the ASEAN reality and its people.
Leaders who subdue themselves before the domineering US are doing so in all probability for two reasons. One is to ensure that they secure their own power bases in their respective homelands with support or kind praise from ‘big brother’. And two, to cover any trails that the US institutions of integrity (including the powerful media) may sniff out to expose alleged levels of corruption by these leaders and their coterie. (We should know better. Hillary praised Malaysia as a model nation for ASEAN neighbors to emulate. But today the US Department of Justice has much to examine Malaysia for an unprecedented scale of corrupt practices.)
As the Americans prepare themselves for a possible shift of power from the clutches of the Democrats and into the Trump-led Republicans, ASEAN needs to learn fast how to stand tall like how Duterte has demonstrated with resounding alarm to the US.
It is time to tell the world that ASEAN is unique. Its people share so much in common given the roots that dates back to hundreds of years of administration, trade and knowledge sharing.
Yes ASEAN has been a victim of corrupt leaders but many believe that this was a covert design in which the superpower would have had a hand in. Take a look at India. Narendra Modi’s assent would not have been welcome. But when a nation of people decide, then the US must kowtow. So, likewise, Asean must collaborate, cooperate, and bind together to free itself from being a pawn of any superpower.
Civil society initiatives in ASEAN particularly can provide the clarion call and be the catalyst to build the bridges of good governance, collaborative leadership, justice, democracy and human rights.
We do not have to agree that all that the US preaches is always a must-have for ASEAN. ASEAN has the means and only needs the will to find its own wealth of commonly shared values, principles and ethical bearings.
We must not let race and religious divides be the stumbling block in the region as is the case in Malaysia. Only then can we stand tall in the eyes of the progressing societies in the world of tomorrow.
Hopefully Duterte’s stand off stance in this ASEAN-US Summit would have taught other fellow leaders that if you have to stand up and speak the truth, do so, even it hurts the most. For this is in the best interest of the ASEAN people whom the rest of the world must quickly re-learn and embrace as we the ASEAN community are not as young as we have been led to think.
We have a cumulative thousands of years of history that made us and what we can be in the region called the ASEAN community.