Sunday, December 30, 2018

Opinion Piece: Set up an ASEAN Disaster Relief Fund (ADRF) > By Raymond Anthony Fernando

There are two kinds of active citizens: the first group are citizens who continue to contribute to society upon retirement.   These people do not believe in retirement, and continue to engage in hobbies such as gardening, photography, making music, or taking up volunteer work.
The second group are the more vocal Singaporeans – social activists who are the voice for the "voiceless".
Social activists are people who have the courage and conviction to bring about social change.  These people who adopt a ‘never say die’ attitude – with sheer guts and determination have the power to change things that we don’t agree with — whether it's what’s in our mass-produced food, the escalating cost of living, treatment of animals in captivity, inequality between genders or races or how our marginalized citizens are treated. 
Active citizens should not just point out flaws in the system, but offer constructive solutions to problems.  When they begin to take action to bring awareness to the causes, which they are passionate about, these citizens naturally become well-respected activists in the process.
I have been an activist for close to ten years now –and will continue to give out useful suggestions that can help build a better world. 
Active citizens are also those who take on a vested interest in the well-being of our citizens. They step forward to help without being asked to when they witness something wrong.  When a robbery took place in broad daylight at Raffles Place in November 2014, many Singaporeans of different races as well as foreigners, went to the aid of a wounded man who was bleeding very badly, and pinned down his alleged attacker.  It was a clear sign of our public spirit – a form of active citizenry.
I also applaud Singaporean Charis Mah who started a mass online petition to bar self-proclaimed United States "pick-up artist" and dating coach Julien Blanc from entering Singapore to hold seminars.  Blanc’s tactics has come under fire in many countries like Britain and South Korea as he advocates physical violence, intimidation and emotional abuse on women to persuade them to have sex.
Some of our ASEAN counties of which Singapore is a member country have often experience earthquakes, volcano eruptions and typhoons, flooding and landslides where lives and property are lost – in a most cruel way. Communication becomes a huge problem when phone lines and cables get damaged, leaving many of her citizens in anxiety as they are unable to contact one another. When anxiety becomes unmanageable, depression sets in, and healthcare cost increases It’s a vicious cycle.  Re-construction efforts cost millions of dollars.
In Indonesia, the death toll from the volcano-triggered tsunami at Anak Krakatau
has reached at least 281 people, with warning of more such eruptions to take place.  More worries:
  • 1,016 were injured, 57 are missing and 11,687 have been displaced.
  • Indonesian rescuers are scrambling with diggers and other heavy equipment and even their bare hands, trying to free survivors from the rubble.
  • More than 600 homes and more than 400 boats and ships were damaged.
Fortunately, Mercy Relief and the Singapore Government is steeping forward to lend a helping hand.
In the Philippines, approximately 20 typhoons, storms, landslides and storms with flooding cause havoc to the country. In a recent incident, on Saturday 29th December 2018, another typhoon struck the country damaging roads, property and homes. 
The Buddhist Charity Tzi Chi Foundation will not forsake the Filipinos and will once again step forward with reconstruction efforts to rebuild the country. Very noble of this charity!
As of 2010, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has 10-member states, one candidate member state, and one observer state. ASEAN was founded on 8 August 1967 with five members: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Given that huge costs are needed to rebuild the lives and property in counties that are hit with natural disasters, and in the spirit of AEAN Solidarity, adopting the principle of “all for one, and one for all”, I propose that an ASEAN Disaster Relief Fund (ADRF) be set up to help with reconstruction efforts, medical supplies and food delivery.  NGOs like Mercy Relief and the Tzi Chi Foundation can partner the member countries for this humanitarian scheme.  Every country can contribute a fixed sum each month towards the ADRF and the funds can be managed by the AEAN Secretariat with audits carried out periodically to ensure that the money is not misused, but routed to the purpose that it is intended for.
Raymond Anthony Fernando   

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