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Young Expressions

16 April 2002

Regional Cohesion a Must For ASEAN

Hello and welcome to Young Expressions, where we feature the writings of young people in Singapore. In this edition we bring you the last of a four part special, that focuses on four university students from Singapore, who'll be joining 20 of their contemporaries from five other Asian countries for the upcoming Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative that will take place in July.


 The four student Ambassadors from  Singapore selected to participate in  the 5th Hitachi Young Leaders  Initiative.
 
 They are: (clockwise from left)  Gerald Goh, Singapore Management
 University; Mervyn Sek and Mustafa  Izzuddin, National University of
 Singapore and Rita Zamzamah Binte  Mohamed Nazeer, Nanyang
 Technological University.

Mustafa Izzuddin, 1st year Political Science Major, National University of Singapore

My aspiration for the future is for the minority ethnic communities to see themselves as a Singaporean Singapore, and for a united ASEAN, where regionalism precedes nationalism and not vice versa. Hence I feel such an initiative is timely, forward-looking and encouraging chiefly because this are testing times for ASEAN to stay united economically (emergence of China), politically (face of terrorism) and socially (bilateral ties between Singapore/Malaysia).

As a student who is majoring in Political Science and taken a module on Southeast Asia, it has helped me to better understand ASEAN, its history and the challenges facing it in this global day and age. I hope to share my analysis and research with my ASEAN counterparts to look for ways to suggest how to strengthen neighboring ties and foster closer regional cohesion.

Volunteerism has been a desire and mainstay for me and I remain committed to my goal of helping others. Being an active volunteer with the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM) and Mendaki Club has provided me with the avenue to broaden my capabilities and develop personal qualities of self-reliance, perseverance and sense of responsibility to myself, to society and to the nation. These experiences have also made me more aware of world affairs and the issues involved both on a local and global level.

I believe that with such bags of experience backing me ranging from school leadership as a councilor in Tampines Junior College to community service and organizing focus group discussions, I’m certain that I would be able to contribute wholeheartedly to the success of this prestigious programme when it comes to be actively involved in community service or to be participatory in forums and focus-group discussions.

My contributions have always been limited to the various ethnic communities i.e. Malay/Muslim community within the borders of Singapore. Just like an MNC which transcends national borders, I hope to do likewise by sharing my experiences and views across the borders of Singapore with the rest of my ASEAN counterparts in this initiative: issues such as meritocracy, multiculturalism, entrepreneurship and probably even ‘Singlish’ through field research and surveys in line with the Initiative.

I’m particularly impressed with an MNC such as Hitachi in undertaking such a bold initiative to develop, within a culture of excellence, the personal and leadership qualities of promising young man and woman not just from any individual country in Southeast Asia but ASEAN as a whole; few MNCs would actually be noble and adventurous enough to run such an initiative rather than for just profit maximization. For that I salute Hitachi.

I look upon this programme as a challenge with an outlook of optimism. I’m certain that this programme will provide me with the bridge to the dynamic and complex reality that exists outside of the classroom and academia. I’m convinced that this programme will indeed fulfill my aspirations to be an educated person and a global citizen, alive to the needs of the community and its ASEAN neighbors with sharpen powers of reasoning and analysis to better understand and appreciate the rich ethnic, cultural and linguistic variety that characterizes the crossroads of Southeast Asia. I am confident that my depth of commitment and quality of service as a volunteer and student leader could make a positive contribution to this programme as well as benefit from it.

Let me end of with a quote by Thomas Jefferson, a diplomat and a political thinker, who once said and I quote,” Nothing can stop a man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help a man with the wrong mental attitude.” Here I am now, with the right mental attitude, a positive mindset and an engine full of perseverance, a man on a mission. A mission to accomplish my goal that is representing Singapore as a student ambassador in HYLI.


1. In what ways do you think that 'Regional Cohesion' will benefit the progress and growth of the ASEAN/Asia region?

I envision via ‘Regional Cohesion’ an outward looking heterogeneous ASEAN playing a pivotal role in the International Fora, having an intensified relationship with its Dialogue Partners and other regional organizations based on equal partnership and respect. Furthermore, I envision via ‘Regional Cohesion’ a socially cohesive and caring ASEAN where hunger, malnutrition, deprivation and poverty are no longer basic problems; where strong families as the basic units of society tend to their members particularly the children, youth, women and elderly; and where the civil society is empowered and gives special attention to the disadvantaged, disabled and marginalized and where social justice and the rule of law reign regardless of gender, race, religion, language, or social and cultural background.

I personally believe that ‘Regional Cohesion’ would help to sustain ASEAN’s high economic performance by building upon the foundation of our existing cooperation efforts, consolidating our achievements, expanding our collective efforts and enhancing mutual assistance. Furthermore, I believe it would help resolve the inter-alia in Southeast Asia by advancing economic integration and cooperation by:

§ Fully implementing the ASEAN Free Trade Area & strengthening the multilateral trading system,
§ Accelerate the development of science and technology including information technology by establishing a regional information technology network and centers of excellence for dissemination of and easy access to date and information,
§ Enhance food security and international competitiveness of food, agricultural and forest products, to make ASEAN a leading producer of these products, and promote the forestry sector as a model in forest management, conservation and sustainable development and lastly
§ Promote an ASEAN customs partnership for World Class standards and excellence in efficiency, professionalism and service, and uniformity through harmonized procedures to promote trade and investment and to protect the health and well being of the ASEAN community.

In closing, I would like to commend ASEAN for its accomplishments. Its members have ridden out some difficult storms. But, on the whole, this region is more united, more democratic, and better able to create the kind of economic growth and prosperity that will last than it has ever been.


2. What qualities do you think an entrepreneur should prossess? Who among the entrepreneurs in the Asia do you admire and why?

Entrepreneurs are usually considered to be creative people; people who are willing to take risks and think outside the box. They tend to be loners who feel they can do just about everything necessary to start and run a business. They think such because they know themselves to be resourceful, and because their passion originates from a desire to do something better than it's being done now; they work from the depth of a vision. I personally believe that these are some of the basic qualities necessary to be a rising or even a successful entrepreneur:

§ Self-starter and carving out your own niche.
§ Sacrifices short-term enjoyments for long-term success. No pain, no gain.
§ Effective networker and a competitor
§ Maintains a balance between work, play and family; Good management of time
§ Being in good health, has lots of energy and can handle stress
§ Being motivated by a strong desire to achieve and attain financial success
§ Having a positive mindset; Focuses attention on chances of success rather than chances of failure
§ An engine full of perseverance; Not easily discouraged by setbacks
§ A leader who gets along well with others; Takes responsibility
§ Organized and decisive; having a solid business plan with good cash forecasting.

Well, it is rather easy to predict whom among the entrepreneurs in Asia I admire. He has not only contributed onerously to Singapore but also to Asia and the World as a whole. Any guess who he is? It is none other than Mr. Sim Wong Hoo who today heads a multi-media giant Creative Technology which has 5000 employees worldwide, 600 R&D staff, 20 offices and subsidiaries globally, 230 distributors in 80 countries, revenue FY2000 hit US$1.3 billion and over 20,000 active retail outlets in USA.

The Story of Sim Wong Hoo is a remarkable account of vision, determination and courage. He started Creative Technology from scratch with a mere $10K, a polytechnic diploma and a ‘kampong’ boy background – the classic poor-local-boy-makes-good mold story that came true. It was not smooth sailing all the way for him. He made his share of mistakes when he lost more than $300 million personally in 1992. But he was quick to bite the bullet. "I take pride in being different," he says. "When everybody is going one way" — he gestures in a way that suggests a herd of cattle — "I go the other way. That's where opportunity is." With nimbleness and a never-say-die spirit, he revamped Creative Technology and brought it back from the brink of financial disaster. Today, the company is again an attractive investment for stock investors worldwide.

That is the sort of man he is taking failures to be the stepping-stone to success and having a “Dare to dream; Dare-to-change style” attitude. For such a man I salute and who demands my respect. He will be a role model for me to scale to greater heights and hope to be an entrepreneur one day just like him.


3. How do you feel the role of the media can help advance or foster regional cohesion?

I believe the media (press, television, radio, film and video) can play a crucial role to promote the paramount goals of ASEAN including preservation of political stability, rapid economic growth, social justice, greater regional cohesion and the development of human resources to their full potential. Furthermore, I believe the media can help foster regional cohesion by promoting greater awareness and understanding among the peoples of ASEAN of their history, traditions, ideals and values, and continue to enhance positive relationships among ASEAN member countries where I feel the need for the press to exercise sensitivity in handling issues that might affect the solidarity of ASEAN.

Also, I believe the media can help foster regional cohesion by promoting and projecting ASEAN within and outside the Region effectively and positively - the foreign media could serve as the link by providing a more balanced view of the values and sensitivities of ASEAN peoples to the rest of the world.
It is able to further generate, disseminate, and exchange information materials in support of values important to member countries and ASEAN initiatives in economic development and integration, political and security cooperation, functional cooperation including environmental protection, socio-cultural development and other relevant concerns. Finally, I feel the media could assist in upgrading and enhancing the professionalism of ASEAN professionalism practitioners through human resources development programs, attachments and exchange.

As an example, within the framework of efforts to foster unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of ASEAN, the ASEAN Ministers agreed that Indonesia's contribution of the song "ASEAN Harmony" which reflects this feeling of unity and solidarity be broadcast on radio and television in ASEAN countries. I feel the media is playing a crucial role and will continue to do so to foster regional cohesion.


4. How do you perceive the role of big organisations, in relation to social and community responsibility?

I believe the role of big organizations whether they are Multinational Companies (MNCs), Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) or an International Organization such as the United Nations (UN) do play a crucial role when it comes to social and community responsibility. For example would be the Humanitarian Law which defines the basic civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights that are intended to promote an acceptable standard human existence in the contemporary world. This is crucial when it comes to ‘Regional cohesion’ in multi-ethnic and multi-religious ASEAN where all people could enjoy equitable access to opportunities for total human development regardless of gender, race, religion, language, or social and cultural background.

I feel big organizations could play a far major role when it comes to fostering a socially cohesive and caring ASEAN for example, by reducing hunger, malnutrition, deprivation and poverty through humanitarian aid, emphasizing the need of strong families as the basic units of society and education as a passport to scale to greater heights and contribute even further to ‘Regional Cohesion’.

Lastly, big organizations such as MNCs could generate employment, income and wealth, encourage training of workers to enable ASEAN for example to be technologically competitive, competent in strategic and enabling technologies, with an adequate pool of technologically qualified and trained manpower. Not only that, I feel such big organizations like the MNCs could work closely with ASEAN to put in place fully established mechanisms for sustainable development to ensure the protection of the region's environment, the sustainability of its natural resources, and the high quality of life of its peoples.


5. How do you think you can contribute to and benefit from participating in this Initiative?

My favorite motto is: “Try to bring a rainbow to someone’s life everyday. What sort of legacy will we leave? What will they put in our tombstone? I want mine to read that I made a difference in someone’s life.” A simple motto underlying a meaningful message as illustrated by Albert Einstein who once said and I quote,” Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living.” Volunteerism has always been my desire and commitment and my goal to help others. An active volunteer with the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM) and Mendaki Club has provided the avenue to broaden my capabilities and develop personal qualities of self-reliance, perseverance and sense of responsibility to myself, to society and to the nation. Activities include giving tuition to the underprivileged every Sunday, organizing expeditions for fellow youths through networking, indulging in issues of interest and current affairs via close-door focus group discussions and dialogue sessions has made me more aware of the world and the issues around them.

I believe that with such bags of experience backing me ranging from school leadership as a councilor to community service and organizing focus group discussions, I’m certain that I would be able to contribute wholeheartedly to the success of this prestigious programme when it comes to be actively involved in community service or to be participatory in forums and focus-group discussions. My contributions have always been limited to the various ethnic communities e.g. Malay/Muslim community within the borders of Singapore. Just like an MNC which transcends national borders, I hope to do likewise by sharing my experiences and views across the borders of Singapore with the rest of my ASEAN counterparts in this initiative: issues such as meritocracy, multiculturalism, entrepreneurship and probably even ‘Singlish’ through field research and surveys in line with the Initiative.

I’m particularly impressed with an MNC such as Hitachi in undertaking such a bold initiative to develop, within a culture of excellence, the personal and leadership qualities of promising young man and woman not just from any individual country in Southeast Asia but ASEAN as a whole; few MNCs would actually be noble and adventurous enough to run such an initiative rather than for just profit maximization. For that I salute Hitachi.

I look upon this programme as a challenge with an outlook of optimism. I’m certain that this programme will provide me with the bridge to the dynamic and complex reality that exists outside of the classroom and academia. Gathering useful information via browsing through the HYLI website, I’m convinced that this programme will indeed fulfill my aspirations to be an educated person and a global citizen, alive to the needs of the community and its ASEAN neighbors with sharpen powers of reasoning and analysis to better understand and appreciate the rich ethnic, cultural and linguistic variety that characterizes the crossroads of Southeast Asia. I am confident that my depth of commitment and quality of service as a volunteer and student leader could make a positive contribution to this programme as well as benefit from it.


6. Should you be selected fro this programme with the main theme "Asia's Roadmap - Forging Regional Cohesion for Global Advancement",which one of the following sub-themes would interest you most? And why?

a. Cultivating Entreprenuerial Spirit in Asia
b. The Growing Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia
c. The Changing Role of the Media in Asia

All 3 workshop sub-themes are indeed relevant and crucial for survival and betterment in an ever-changing globalize world that we live in today. If I had to pick and choose, I would choose “Cultivating Entrepreneurial Spirit in Asia”. Having read and heard the history of renowned businesspersons and their respective companies from around the world, I have come to realize that many started from small initiatives even micro-enterprises and with some time they managed to turn them into multi-million success stories. One might think that this is luck, to a certain extent it may be, but after numerous researches on what makes an entrepreneur successful it was clear that there are some common features, which explain their success. This workshop particular appeals to me to better understand the ends and means on how such entrepreneurs worldwide become successful and further analyze why there is a lack of entrepreneurial spirit in Asia especially in Singapore. Is it the sort of social culture that we have over the years that have stifled our initiative and creativity?

In recent years, the governments of Asia have started nudging the people to be more innovative and creative. With new technology, products and businesses constantly emerging, and many newly developed countries fast catching up, this is indeed a pressing and necessary move. As competition in the global economy heats up, conservatism will not generate enough competitiveness. Hence I feel cultivating entrepreneurial creativity and innovation would be the greatest challenge of Asia especially ASEAN.

For example, the financial crisis and now the severe recession has made Asia especially ASEAN realize that good days do not last forever. Already the slumped economy has cut employment opportunities and thrown the threat of unemployment into the faces of many workers. I personally believe that Asia has to carve out its own niche and not to be over-reliant on the external American Economy – it has to cultivate a form of entrepreneurial spirit, which brings greater employment opportunities that serves as a dynamo for economic growth.

Having said that, altogether the current economic directions and efforts to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit have been welcomed by all the business and education sectors. However, I feel it is still premature to judge the impact of it on society as a whole and the economy in particular. Meanwhile, I believe Asia especially ASEAN will learn many lessons from the process and experience but hopefully will gain a competitive advantage by cultivating an entrepreneurial state of mind and behavior that will enable it to participate effectively in the regional and global economies. Hence I’m specifically looking forward to carrying out field research or even a case study backed by full-pledged questionnaires to further analyze the “Entrepreneurial Spirit in Asia” which I feel is a worthwhile project to embark upon.

22 March — Young Photographers series : Winner of the Photographer of the Year Award (SAFRA) - Yian Huang .
15 March — Young Photographers series - the Poet Photographer Leonard Goh.
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