4th Asian Public Intellectuals Workshop

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

It is a great honor and pleasure for me to have the opportunity to meet the 4th Group of API Fellows here tonight. It is also a tremendous honor to meet His Royal Highness Raja Nazrin Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Shah, a leading public intellectual in Malaysia; Professor Dato’ Dr. Mohammed Salleh Mohammed Yasin, Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; once again, the members of the International Selection Committee, and the Directors of the institutions collaborating with The Nippon Foundation in this program.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the late Professor Dr. Ishak Shari, the former Director of IKMAS, Professor Dr. Rogayah Haji Mt. Zin, Director of IKMAS, and Ms. Dorothy Fernandez Robert, API Program Coordinator at IKMAS for their firm commitment and hard work as the first Coordinating Institution of the API program from the year 2000 to May this year. Without the wonderful institutional support provided by IKMAS and the strong personal commitment of these three individuals, the API Fellowships Program would not be what it is today. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the three people from the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University who worked very hard in preparing this workshop: Professor Dr. Supang Chantanavichi, the Director, Associate Professor Surichai Wun’Gaeo, the Vice Director, and Ms. Michiko Yoshida Rojanphruk, the API Program Coordinator. Last but not least, I would also like to express my appreciation to the Workshop Director, Professor Dato’ Dr. Rahman Embong.

As you know, the first East Asia Summit will be held here in Malaysia next month. Participants will be engaging in discussions towards the creation of a new regional community. Asia faces many transnational issues that threaten people’s livelihoods. These include pressing issues such as terrorism and bird flu, as well as poverty, environmental destruction, ethnic conflict, and religious conflict, to name a few. And these issues are closely intertwined with the wave of globalization sweeping the world today.

Asia is home to various regional networks among governments as well as international organizations. However, it is evident that these mechanisms are not always successful in resolving regional issues due to reasons ranging from national interest and laws to bureaucracy.

It is also undeniable that the lack of knowledge in Asian countries about their neighbors is making it difficult to address these various problems. Until now we have looked to the West as our primary source of information on our neighbors, and have been far from enthusiastic about visiting our neighboring countries to see things with our own eyes and learn from direct experience.

An important objective of the API Fellowship Program is to learn about our neighbors and gain access to information about them that is not filtered through Western eyes. Another important goal of the program is to generate ideas for resolving the common issues that face Asia, contributing to the public good from a private standpoint. It then aims to put these ideas to action, either independently or in collaboration with governmental organizations. My wish is for all members of the API community, regardless of their position or profession, to deepen their understanding of their neighbors, and keep the greater interest of Asia in mind at all times, changing things for the better by putting their knowledge and experience to practical use.