Welcome Speech by Graham Watson, on the occasion of the ALDE-CALD Partnership Dinner

November 27, 2013 6:54 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Welcome speech by Hon. Sir Graham Watson, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, on the occasion of the ALDE-CALD Partnership Dinner held on 08 November 2013 at The Venue Prism Plaza, Pasay City, Philippines.

I want to start by telling you that my wife and I have just become what are called ’empty nesters’. Our daughter left home to go to university three years ago; our son left a few weeks ago.

I fear my wife is probably more affected by this new state of affairs than I am. But even I have started to take more distanced, perhaps more relaxed view of our children than before. I find I am able to take a fatherly view of the achievements of two adults in whose creation and upbringing I have been intimately involved.

Forgive me if I say the same of these CALD- ALDE gatherings. Having been present at the creation of CALD and later the progenitor of ALDE I took the initiative, as Leader of the

ALDE group in the European Parliament, to host the first meeting we held there. And I am pleased to note how the tradition has grown, matured and become more stable and self- assured.

I am pleased too that the midwife, who has also served as a wet-nurse, is still around: without the Friedrich Naumann Foundation this baby could not have been successfully delivered. Wolfgang Sachsenroeder, we owe you a huge debt of thanks!

Over the years we have involved more and more people in our work. We have got to know each other better. Not just the Europeans getting to know the Asians and vice versa, but the European participants getting to know each other better and the Asian participants too. We have made our Liberal contribution to the accumulating treasure of the relations between our continents.

So now, when an autocrat like Hun Sen rigs an election, European Liberals use every parliamentary tool in the toolbox to put pressure on EU governments to protest.

When the foreign minister of Singapore comes to the European Parliament, we European Liberals prepare awkward questions about lack of plural democracy.

When the former President of Taiwan is held in disgraceful conditions we visit him to draw attention to such an abuse, and use the opportunity to call on Ma Ing-jeou to show human decency.

Because Europe’s Liberals will not rest while our brothers and sisters on other continents as being intimidated, harassed and denied the dignity every human being deserves.

Of course, by the same token, we share your joys and your triumphs. So when Noynoy Aquino is elected as President of the Philippines, we party!

Because freedom is just as important to an Asian as to a Caucasian!

And the sanctity of life of a slum dweller in Zamboanga is just as important, in the grand scheme of this universe, as is that of a highly paid lawmaker in Brussels.

But I think there is more than that. Our visits here over the years have given us a taste for Liberalism, Asian style.

There have been many wonderful experiences, but if could pick just three reminiscences they might be these:

  • –  going out into the Cambodian countryside to join Rainsy and Saumura at rallies held after dark by candle-light, and eating deep-fried crickets!
  • –  sitting in Jakarta with our friends from the PDI – P listening to wise old Gus Dur explaining Liberalism, Indonesian-style;

– joining our SDP friends for a rally at a major hotel in Singapore at which the government made our words so much more powerful – by banning us from speaking.

And perhaps I should add, singing karaoke in Tagaytay into the wee small hours of the morning.

I hope that we in Europe have managed to give you similar memorable experiences. But just in case we have not, yet, let me tonight extend to you an invitation: to visit my constituency, the south west of England, after our next meeting in Brussels.

I cannot offer you deep-fried crickets. But I can procure you a cheese which both smells worse and tastes better than Durian.

Friends, we in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe are honoured to know you; and privileged to share your challenges and your fears, your hopes and your dreams.

We look forward to a great conference tomorrow. And we wish you every success for the next twenty years of co-operation!

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The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) was inaugurated in Bangkok in 1993, with the support of then Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and South Korea’s Kim Dae-Jung. CALD, which offers a unique platform for dialogue and cooperation, is the only regional alliance of liberal and democratic political parties in Asia.
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