Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin delivers his opening address during the 2017 Conference on Indonesian Foreign Policy in Jakarta on Saturday (21/10). (Photo courtesy of the Asean Secretariat)

Malaysian Minister Calls for 'New Asean Way' to Ensure Region's Future


OCTOBER 22, 2017

Jakarta. Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations needs to switch from its traditional top-down approach and adopt "a new Asean way" that is more honest and open, while focusing on developing a collective identity for people in the region.

Speaking during the 2017 Conference on Indonesian Foreign Policy in Jakarta on Saturday (21/10), Jamaluddin said the regional bloc must learn from Brexit while also managing disparity and diversity.

"Integration in Asean must be seen as fair by all member countries [...] We need a bottom-up approach for the future of Asean. For too long, Asean has always [adopted a] top-down [approach], but the future must be written by the people," the minister said in his opening speech.

The bloc established the Asean Economic Community in 2015 with the slogan "One Vision, One Identity, One Community."

The minister criticized Asean's fundamental principle of noninterference and said "a new Asean way" will be essential for the bloc's future.

He was alluding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine State, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

More than half a million people have fled the troubled region to neighboring Bangladesh after attacks by insurgents triggered a military crackdown in the violence-prone region in August.

Countries cannot remain silent when the noninterference principle results in instability and affect other countries in the region, Jamaluddin said. He added that the situation was a test for Asean.

"Asean needs to continue to respect tradition, respect noninterference, but we need to be honest with one another and we need to speak up when these issues affect us," he said.

Malaysia disassociated itself from an Asean statement on the situation in Myanmar last month.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman explained that the decision was taken because the country believed the statement was a "misrepresentation of the reality of the situation," and added that the statement also did not include the Rohingya as one of the communities affected by the crisis.

The Rohingya crisis has resulted in a wave of refugees flowing in other Asean countries amid a rising threat of radicalization as terror groups take advantage of the situation by recruiting those who are targeted in the violence.

The situation has emerged as one of the new challenges confronting the region, with the rise of terrorism and threats of radicalization requiring a nontraditional approach that may pave the way on how the bloc handles future crises.

Asean Identity

Jamaluddin also emphasized that the people of Asean need to "rise together" to embrace a regional identity.

"How can we move from a political construct to a real identity? We need to start thinking about what can we do to solidify this identity," he said.

Asean might be able to progress toward creating this collective identity among its people by pursuing an out-of-the-box idea, which Jamaluddin said can take the form of the region hosting the World Cup or the Olympics.

"Sports bring people together. How can we bring the power of sports to [realize an] Asean identity?" he said.

The Jakarta Globe is a media partner for the event.