11 July 2024

The eldest son of Surin Pitsuwan is setting up a foundation named after the late former ASEAN secretary general to help promote education, diplomacy and human security.

Speaking at a forum organized by the ASEAN Secretariat and Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) to commemorate Surin’s legacy in Jakarta recently, Fuadi Pitsuwan said the setting up of the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation will be part of the attempts to continue the work his father had started.

“My father’s career as an ASEAN Sec Gen started out as a disappointment to me. It was on the eve of my college graduation ceremony when my father made a decision to fly back from America to the region because of the severity of Cyclone Nargis that was ravaging Myanmar. That was how I was introduced to my father’s tenure as the region’s top diplomat,” Fuadi recalled.

However, he said that he and his family understood the sacrifices they had to make in order for his father to serve the public.

“He had trained us well over the years. As an example, every year we would make a pilgrimage to visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC when I was a college student there. We would re-read the Gettysburg’s address that is printed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. This is Lincoln’s speech that ends with the provocative, but righteous reminder that the “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”, he said.

He said that Lincoln’s famous sentence served as a guide to his father’s work at the ASEAN Secretariat. “He wanted the Secretariat to serve the governments that serve the people. This was shown through his focus on issues related to education, conflict resolutions and human security,” said Fuadi who is a predoctoral fellow at Chiang Mai University’s School of Public Policy .

“To this end, I am hoping to continue the work he had started. Both my father and I know that we will never finish, but we will need to keep moving closer to our illusive goals. I am in the process of starting up the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation that I hope to establish it as a permanent endowment, in which only proceeds from investment will be used to run programs. But its impacts will go in size and will last in perpetuity. I plan for it to operate region-wide. The Foundation will focus on three areas: Education, diplomacy and human security,” he said.

Fuadi explained that the foundation aims to provide scholarships to young ASEAN students to study abroad within the region and outside the region in order to both encourage ASEAN integration and academic excellence.  It will also provide research funding on ASEAN and ASEC related issues.

“On diplomacy, the foundation wants to fund programs related to interfaith dialogue and conflict resolutions in order to promote mutual understanding and further integration of ASEAN,” he said.

On human security, he said the foundation hopes to assist in disaster reliefs in some capacity and other immediate development needs that will help secure the future ASEAN citizens.

“It’s been one year since I have lost my father and ASEAN has lost one of its most passionate champions. It will take many years for me to build up this Foundation and raise a sizable enough fund from the people who share his belief in an integrated and peaceful ASEAN that works as a single unit. I will need all your support and prayers going forward,” he said.