(July 28, 2003/Singapore) The Young Democrats of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA), in cooperation with Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation, Olaf Palme Institute and the Swedish International Liberal Centre, sponsored the International Youth Conference for Democracy from July 25-27, 2003 in Singapore.
Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary General of the SDP reported that “The conference went off very well. Several of the local participants indicated that they would like to see similar
events take place in Singapore and, more important, that they would like to stay involved in any kind of initiative that would work towards promoting democracy in Singapore.
“Two petitions were put up for signatures: one calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, and the other calling on the Singapore government to ratify the ICCPR adopted by the UN. I had subsequently made an application for the conference to gather outside the Burmese embassy in Singapore. Alarm bells immediately went off and the Singapore Foreign Ministry worked overtime that weekend, calling on the various embassies to warn their respective delegates that they would be arrested if they showed up at the embassy. Following discussions with the delegates, it was decided that the petitions would be mailed instead.
“Another positive outcome was the formation of the Sweden-Singapore Initiative for Democracy which will continue to organize projects such as training workshops, exchange programs, conferences, etc. in Singapore. The areas of focus are: elections, media, civil society, youth program, human rights, and labour.”
The delegates from CALD included Hon. Sirichok Sopha MP from the Democrat Party of Thailand, Mr. Paolo “Taikee” Calleja Esq. from the Liberal Party of the Philippines, Mr. Vincent Su from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Taiwan, Mr. Tong Kim Chuang from Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, Mr. Rocky Htoe Thein from National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) and Dr. Chee Soon Juan from SDP.
Mr. Paolo Zamora also presented information on the Young Liberals and Democrats of Asia or YLDA which was established during the CALD First Young Leaders Workshop 2002. The Asian delegates felt that whilst they wanted to see more activities organized for the youth at the regional level, they were hesitant in starting up another group. Instead, they felt that it made more sense widening the networking of existing organizations such as YLDA. The Young Leaders’ Workshop seemed especially attractive in this sense. CALD plans to have a 2nd Young Leaders Workshop during the last quarter of 2003 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Message of M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, MP (CALD Chairman)
In behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals & Democrats, I would like to extend my warm greetings to the delegates of the International Youth Conference for Democracy.
CALD, the only umbrella of political parties in Asia, believes that it is only through the participation of key sectors of society can we realize our collective goals of peace, justice, democracy and development. And the youth sector is not only the biggest but it is also the most dynamic.
We who are part of political parties are only too aware of the key roles and strategic relevance played by youth wings. Youth wings become training grounds for future political leaders. Two, they help young people like themselves get involved in democratic exercises such as voting in elections and poll watching. Three, they contribute significantly to the renewal and reinvigoration of political parties.
Young people now even face greater responsibilities with the challenges of globalization, terrorism and the widening wedges between the rich and the poor among and within nations. This conference would then serve as a forum where young people can discuss amongst themselves solutions to the most pressing problems of their communities, their countries and the international community of nations.
As we have seen in democratic transitions in countries such as the Philippines, Korea and Indonesia, youth power was instrumental in bringing about change and reform. And even in societies where democratic institutions and processes have been firmly put in place, we need youth power to sustain these gains and further bring about progress in all aspects of our national lives.
My congratulations to the organizers of the conference and our sincere welcome to all the participants.
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This post was written by CALD