I am happy to contribute a message to the 2009 Annual Report of CALD. Founded over a decade and a half ago by a few young liberal political leaders from Asia, the organization has grown substantially over the years and now includes nine political parties, one official observer, and a number of distinguished individual members. It has also established itself as perhaps the most thoughtful and creative political forum in the region.
Activities in the past year include the now regular workshops for the Women’s Caucus and in Communication Skills, and a very useful training program that brought home lessons from the Obama campaign. CALD also contributed to various national and international events, including the Liberal International Congress and Liberal Networks Meeting in Egypt in October.
In political terms the Democrat Party of Thailand completed one year in government, and has moved far more swiftly than was anticipated towards political stability. In Taiwan the fortunes of the DPP revived in by-elections after setbacks in the previous year, while the Liberal Party of the Philippines selected an exciting combination of young leaders to contest the 2010 Presidential election, and they have since rapidly emerged as the front runners.
In Singapore and Cambodia and Burma our member parties continued to assert liberal values whilst in opposition, whilst in Sri Lanka the Liberal Party has supported the governing coalition which succeeded in eradicating terrorism, whilst contributing to political change that will develop a pluralistic society.
On a personal note the Malaysian Gerakan Party suffered a sad loss in the untimely demise of its vice president and principal link with CALD. We shall sorely miss Dr. S. Vijayaratnam, his commitment and his enthusiasm and his sterling common sense approach. CALD also suffered the loss shortly into 2010 of its latest individual member, former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid. His position as an eminent Islamic scholar who embraced diversity was invaluable in a period of transition in Indonesia.
We welcome meanwhile the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) as our latest full member, and look forward also to closer cooperation with the Liberal Forum of Pakistan, our only official Observer Member. We need too to strengthen links with our other Observers. As the Chairmanship of CALD moves to South Asia, which only served in a brief interim capacity previously, we should look as well to developing liberalism as an intellectual and political force in this rapidly advancing region. The publication of Liberal Perspectives on South Asia by Cambridge University Press in Delhi will, we hope, help in this endeavor.
I thank the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung for sponsoring that book, as it did its predecessor, but should note that that is simply a tiny example of the enormous support that organization has provided us with, from the start, and during the last year. We look forward to further cooperation, and hope too to develop our links with other like minded bodies in the coming year.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank my predecessor as CALD Chair, Dr Chee Soon Juan, our Secretary General Neric Acosta, the rest of the staff at the CALD Secretariat in Manila, and also John Coronel, our former Executive Director, who made a welcome return to the office to help out when Neric was otherwise occupied. In wishing Neric well for his political future, I also welcome our new Executive Director, Lito Arlegue, and wish him and CALD a healthy and productive year ahead.