PETALING JAYA – Asean must remain open, moderate and inclusive to continue succeeding into the future, said Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.
Being open, moderate and inclusive were major challenges facing the Asean community now and in the future, he said in his speech at the seminar and launch of a book entitled Asean Future Forward: Anticipating the next 50 years.
Sultan Nazrin said Asean had wisely kept itself open to the world and embraced positive external influences, but noted that a populist backlash against globalisation was now present in the region.
“Owing to this and other factors, one can witness in Asean member states growing social divisions – between those with liberal and conservative values; between urban elites and rural masses, and between older baby-boomers and younger millennials,” he said.
The event, organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, was held at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Identity and religious politics, the Sultan noted, were resurgent in many parts of the world – including within the West itself and also in Asean.
“Identity and religious politics are dangerous at the best of times, and it is truly worrying to see them take hold among segments of Asean’s citizens.
“Capitalising on psychological and spiritual unfulfillment and dissatisfaction, extreme and extremist views of just about every stripe and colour have taken hold even here in Asean,” he said.
Sultan Nazrin said Asean aspirations to be “people-oriented” must be redoubled if the Asean Community is to remain open, moderate and inclusive.
“Faced with all these challenges, Asean governments would do well to remind themselves of their responsibility to remain on the path of openness, integration and globalisation,” he said.
“The mettle of political leaderships in Asean will be tested now and in years to come, and for them to opt for short-sighted, isolationist options would not only mean failure for one member state, but for all of Asean’s regionalisation agenda.”
Apart from remaining open, moderate and inclusive, Sultan Nazrin listed out four other mega challenges facing the region.
They are keeping peace at the centre of Asean’s purpose; maintain Asean’s freedom, neutrality and centrality; prioritise the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals; and for Asean to remain innovative and relevant. – The Star Online