Citation for the winners

This year, the Asian of the Year awardees – four people and two organisations – were chosen by The Straits Times for their commitment to disaster relief and courage for stepping up in the moment of greatest need.

While much of Asia has been fixated on geostrategic issues for most of the year, many in the region have tended to overlook the significance of the threat posed by disasters. Like blows to the back of the head, they have often surprised us, stunning in their savagery.

The scale of disasters, and the extent of devastation they cause, has only increased over the past decade. This year, Japan suffered some of its worst floods in recent memory, as too the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Indonesia has been struck by more than one severe earthquake. Four South-east Asian nations are listed among the top 10 countries worldwide that are prone to disasters stemming from climate-change issues.

It is clear that when it comes to disasters of epic scale, there is no "over there" any more. Everyone in Asia, countries large and small, rich and poor, is equally vulnerable.

When calamity strikes, the natural instinct of human beings is to flee. Yet, there are some who, rather than leave the scene, swivel to confront danger and fight. Risking their own lives, they protect the herd. Each of you exemplifies the best of your breed.

As First Responders, your courage, selflessness, calculated risk-taking and presence of mind have mitigated many a terrible situation. By putting yourself in harm's way, your work has turned many certain defeats into stalemates, and stalemates into victories. Your often-lonely soldiering has been society's good fortune. Asia owes you, your families and the institutions that moulded your lives and personalities.

The Straits Times Asian of the Year award honours a person, people or institution that has contributed significantly to the society, nation or the wider Asian continent. In recognising you for the 7th Asian of the Year awards - only the second time we have bestowed this recognition on a group of people - we also hope that more Asians will be motivated to follow in your footsteps and step up to the challenges we face.

You have taught us through personal example that at the end of the day, security is indivisible. It is a truth that must be imbibed by all.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Citation for the winners'. Print Edition | Subscribe