Former Indonesian president Yudhoyono made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of Iseas

SINGAPORE - Former Indonesia president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) and received the award on Friday in honour of his achievements during his 10 years at the helm of the country.

"His experience in all his years as president will be invaluable to us in Iseas ... Under his presidency, Indonesia has achieved an enviable heightened international standing, and has also managed to maintain good bilateral relationships with countries of strategic importance, in particular Japan, China and the United States," Professor Wang Gungwu, chairman of the Iseas's board of trustees, said in a citation at the award ceremony.

Dr Yudhoyono was the first directly-elected Indonesian president and served two terms. He left office last year. That was the same year he was awarded the Order of Temasek (First Class) by Singapore, the highest honour for a foreign leader.

"I wish to thank him for agreeing to help us in our task to better understand how South-east Asian nations will further enhance the region's place in the world," said Prof Wang.

Dr Yudhoyono is the second recipient of the Distinguished Honorary Fellow Award since its introduction in 2012. The first was Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.

The ceremony for Dr Yudhoyono on Friday morning at the Iseas premises in Heng Mui Keng Terrace was attended by over 100 people, including Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Andri Hadi, and former Indonesia Trade and Tourism minister Mari Pangestu.

Dr Yudhoyono, who was accompanied by his wife, said in his speech that he accepted his role with "a continued sense of mission and responsibility about the region".

He said that he has long been familiar with the work Iseas has done, even before he became president.

"If you come to the library at home, there are plenty of excellent books from Iseas. Too bad none of them written by me... yet," he added to laughter and applause.

The world is currently experience historic power shifts, said Dr Yudhoyono, as the United States' primacy wanes and relations between major powers showing "signs of cracks".

Asean too is in the midst of a historic transition, with the establishment of the Asean Community expected at the end of this year, he noted.

"We will need to work hard to deliver the promise that Asean must become a genuine 'people-centred' community - strong at the top, solid at the bottom," he said.

"Asean must also become more coherent as a geopolitical and geo-economic entity... Our ability to maintain this coherence will make Asean more resilient in withstanding the global power shifts, which we hope will be smooth and peaceful but in reality may involve some turbulence."

And Iseas can also help provide leaders and officials in Asean countries with information and foresight.

Said Yudhoyono said: "Iseas has become the standard bearer of excellent research and analysis among think tanks in Southeast Asia. And it has become an effective meeting place for dialogue on issues critical to our region... I hope our work will help Indonesia and Singapore to prosper together, and will help to promote a peaceful Southeast Asia, and a better world."

asyiqins@sph.com.sg