Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
And Good Afternoon.
Distinguished Guests, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am extremely pleased to have been honoured with this ASEAN Lifetime Achievement Award and to say a few words of acceptance. My roles as Crown Prince, and then Regent, and, now, Sultan of the State of Perak, Malaysia, have given me the occasion to contribute at the national level. I would like to think, however, that, through my engagements, I have also made some small contribution to the cause of Southeast Asia’s peace, security and prosperity, something that I have a deep and abiding commitment to.
- As I have stated on a number of occasions, I am an ‘Aseanist’. I believe that Asean, in all its facets, is indispensible not only for the present, but for the future well-being of the region. As we approach the 50th year of its establishment in 2017, Asean has a lot more to do to promote solidarity and cooperation. The Asean Community must be an increasing and ever-present reality, relevant to its people from all walks of life that can enjoy tangible benefits from its existence.
- We can only secure the future of Asean if we pay attention to its future leaders. Most Southeast Asia countries are today in the midst of great inter-generational change, a not-so-silent revolution that is impacting their society, business and politics. It might surprise some to know, for example, that the median age of Asean countries in 2010 was only 28 years of age. By the mid-2020s, even after taking into account declining fertility rates, the average median working-age population for most countries in the region would still be only in the early to mid-30s.
- It is imperative, therefore, that this generation, and every successive one, of Asean leaders in every field of endeavour, from politics to business and society, be birthed, mentored and empowered with a true ‘Asean spirit’ — one of fraternity, mutual trust, respect and cooperation. Indeed, it is important that our leaders be made acutely aware of the fragile and volatile circumstances from which Asean emerged, and that our security has to be a collective one. It is only when the future of Asean rests in their good capable hands that we can really say that the future of the region is truly secure.
- With this, I would like to thank the Asean Leadership Forum, indeed its Chairman, Tan Sri Michael Yeoh, and really, all the leaders in this room, for this great honour. Although a lifetime achievement award might still seem a bit premature at this stage, I accept it gratefully and as a spur to my efforts to see Malaysia and Southeast Asia not only as a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality, but also one of progress and prosperity.