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New ASEAN Secretariat building marks bloc's 52nd anniversary

New ASEAN Secretariat building marks bloc's 52nd anniversary

President Joko Widodo (2nd right) shook hand with ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi (right) after inaugurating the new ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) building in Jakarta on Thursday (Aug 8, 2019). (ANTARA/AF)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a new multi-storey building emblematic of regional harmony, dialog, and unity in Jakarta, as the grouping celebrated its 52nd anniversary on Aug 8, 2019.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) inaugurated the new ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) building in the presence of ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi, foreign ministers, and representatives from its 10 member countries, as well as some 600 other guests, including former ASEAN secretaries general: Tan Sri Dato Ajit Singh and Ambassador Le Luong Minh.

ASEAN members comprise Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

After signing the stone marker, Jokowi, accompanied by Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L. P. Marsudi, symbolically handed over the new building’s key to Dato Lim.

Jokowi, in his remarks, admitted to his personal attachment to the construction of the new ASEC building since he was the governor of Jakarta some seven years ago, and thus, he has monitored the construction progress closely.

"Indonesia has endeavored to facilitate the ASEAN to work in a fast, solid, effective, and efficient manner. Based on that thought, we construct this building," he emphasized.

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The president expressed hope that most ASEAN activities would be conducted in the building, so it could cut travel spending, and the fund would be utilized for other activities.

Jokowi lauded the regional grouping for playing a central role among countries by promoting unity, the very reason it has lasted for 52 years.

The new ASEC building comprises two 16-storey towers connected by a 41.3 meter-long overpass. It is built on an area of 11,369 square meters, with a building area of 49,993 square meters, which has two earthquake-resistant towers.

Marsudi revealed that the new building architecture is based on a concept of dialogue and harmony that was the spirit and culture of ASEAN member countries.

"The concept of this building is dialogue that is an integral part of ASEAN's DNA and culture. The concept of this dialogue is reflected in the building bridge measuring 41.5 meters long and connects the two towers of the new ASEAN building," she explained.

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The two towers are connected by a 40.5-meter sky bridge recorded as the longest suspension bridge in Indonesia in the category of building bridge without a buffer and received an award certificate from the Indonesian World Record Museum (MURI).

The foreign minister noted that the new ASEAN Secretariat building is an environment-friendly building, with the room temperature set at 25 degrees Celsius.

"You will not feel cold here. There is no air conditioner in the lobby," she stated.

A total of 30 meeting rooms can accommodate various ASEAN meetings in future. In addition, the new building provides a special room for delegates from each ASEAN member country.

"We hope the new building of the ASEAN Secretariat would not only be a building but also a source of energy and inspiration for ASEAN's work and efforts in future," she noted.

The Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had opened its own building for the first time in 1981, almost 14 years after the establishment of the regional group on August 8, 1967.

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Owing to the Indonesian government’s gesture, the ASEAN Secretariat’s staff had finally moved to the new eight-storey building, located on Jalan Sisingamangaraja, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, after earlier being housed in temporary offices at Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry compound on Jalan Taman Pejambon.

The former president Soeharto had officially inaugurated the first ASEAN Secretariat building on May 9, 1981, in the presence of the foreign ministers of ASEAN member countries and the signatories of the Bangkok Declaration that marked the birth of the ASEAN.

“As we look forward to the next 50 years of ASEAN integration, this building will provide a sound foundation to deepen our community-building efforts by creating more opportunities for physical meetings and face-to-face interactions that will further deepen our political, economic, and social ties. This means strengthening our engagements with various stakeholders not only here in Jakarta but outside the region as well,” Dato Lim stated while expressing his gratitude to the Indonesian government for the new ASEC building.

Inauguration of the new ASEC building was followed by the celebration of the 52nd anniversary of ASEAN featuring a series of commemorative events involving the community, marking a new chapter in the organization’s history. The celebration aimed at highlighting the inclusiveness and youthfulness of ASEAN.

The foreign ministers also placed the wishes and aspirations of ASEAN Leaders for the next 25 years in a time capsule.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai expressed his gratitude to the Indonesian government for providing the new building for ASEAN.

"It is my honor to be present in the historic inauguration of the new ASEAN Secretariat building. As the ASEAN Chair and the Thai Foreign Minister, I would like to thank Indonesia,” he stated.

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