Singapore - Ten Asean senior statesmen have been appointed to discuss the proposed Asean Charter, a mini-constitution for the grouping. The Charter will serve as a constitutional framework of what the 10-member organisation wants to become and will also help to give integration within the 38-year-old grouping an added push.
The elder statesmen include former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar and former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam.
The panel's members will hold their first meeting at the East Asian Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December. They will receive guidelines there from the Asean heads of government and are expected to submit a report to the leaders in about a year's time. If the main ideas are accepted, officials can then begin working on details of the Charter, which will also outline how Asean institutions should be constructed.
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr George Yeo, said on Aug 5: "Collectively, they constitute a very rich reservoir of knowledge and experience about Asean, and I'm sure they'll be able to put very good proposals for the future. It's going to be quite exciting."
The need for greater cooperation between the 10 Asean members has become more pressing with the emergence of China and India as economic powerhouses. Mr Yeo believes that the regional countries will increasingly be "doing things under the Asean flag".
The Straits Times quoted well-known Thai commentator Kavi Chongkittavorn as saying that the Charter is the "most ambitious political project Asean is undertaking since it was founded in 1967".
* Jaya picked to join senior leaders on Asean Charter panel (The Straits Times, Aug 8)