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Closing address by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha Chairman of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats , at the Conference on Pluralism and Development In Asia: Issues and Prospects - 6th November 2011

First and foremost, my thanks to all those who have made this Congress one of our most memorable. First, to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, and our friends who have contributed much to CALD since they were first involved in our work, and who have done even more after they took up membership. I must also pay special tribute to Dr Rainer Adam, not only for his stewardship currently of the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung that works with CALD, but also for his seminal work while he was in Indonesia to support political parties as they strove to restore democracy. I was sorry when he left India where he briefly headed the South Asia Regional Office, but our loss was Indonesia’s gain, and now that of the Region, for he truly manifests the spirit of pluralism and equitable development which is essential throughout Asia.

My thanks also to the FNS representative in Manila, Jules Maaten, who has fitted in so well with our work as well as the country and the region. He has of course been helped by superb office staff in Manila. The CALD Secretariat has done a fantastic job as usual, and this is the more remarkable in that they have had a very full year, which will have encompassed 8 very significant events before it concludes. Unfortunately I cannot take credit for any of this, but as Chairman I shall certainly encourage appreciation of the fact that this has I think been CALD’s most active year since its inception.

I must also thank Liberal International, and in particular its indefatigable President and its equally energetic Secretary General, for their support throughout the year, not only for the Liberal International Congress in Manila, but also for ensuring a memorable ceremony to award the Liberal International Prize for Freedom to my predecessor as Chair, Dr Chee Soon Juan. Let me also thank Neric Acosta, our Secretary General, who has been a rock of support now to three Chairs of CALD. I can and will take credit for noting, in encouraging the Singapore Democrat Party to take up the CALD Chair when its turn came, that they could appoint a Secretary General from elsewhere. Sadly, being translated to higher things now – if there be anything higher than CALD – Neric will not be available for this in the future, but we cannot, for the sake of CALD, allow the environment of the Philippines to suffer without his advice.

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Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha Chair, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, at the first session of the Conference on Pluralism and Development In Asia: Issues and Prospects - November 5th 2011

Let me begin with the obvious. Pluralism is fun. Uniformity is not only dull, it is also destructive. We all need variety in our lives, we need different interests to keep our minds active. We need to explore new idea, and we do this best through experiencing and engaging with a range of perspectives.

But, in celebrating variety, those of us who are innately fascinated by novelty must also realize that this has its risks. Conformity provides certainty, and we need to remember that security is perhaps the most important of all emotional needs for humans, or should I say for all living beings. And familiarity inculcates security. We should not then underestimate the strength of the need to live amongst those who share language and religion and customs.

Two factors have contributed to institutionalizing this thrust towards uniformity in the construction of nation states. The first is the strength of revealed religion. This is most apparent now with regard to Islam, where the urge for conformity seems particularly invasive of individuality. But we have to remember that this is not a new phenomenon, and the great intermingling of civilizations that took place through the explorations of post-Renaissance Europe was often fuelled by a thirst to convert.

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Welcome Remarks

I am delighted, on behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, to welcome all of you to this Conference on Pluralism and Development In Asia: Issues and Prospects. It is particularly significant that we are holding this Conference in Bali, which is an object lesson as it were in pluralism. It is a largely Hindu island in a predominatly Islamic country. Its Hinduism is eclectic and combines elements of Buddhism as well as animism.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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