SINGAPORE – Amid the hustle and bustle, this week’s Asean summits and related meetings were not short of light-hearted moments among leaders, officials and media professionals. We highlight some of them.
1. SOCK DIPLOMACY
Apart from being one of the (visibly) younger statesmen at the meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 46, is also known for his sartorial savvy – in particular, socks.
Mr Trudeau did not disappoint at the Summit. In a meeting with Temasek president Chia Song Hwee at the Four Seasons Hotel on Tuesday (Nov 13), he sported a pair of socks with a geometric blue, white and red pattern, matching his suit, shirt and tie.
At a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong the next day, a beaming Mr Trudeau showed off socks in shades of blue, black and grey – once again impeccably matching his clothes.
On a visit to the National University of Singapore on Thursday, where he joined in a town hall discussion, Mr Trudeau was seen with patterned socks in contrasting layers of purple, pink and grey.
Mr Trudeau also met Razer CEO Tan Min-Liang on Thursday, where his colourful socks were spotted a second time.
The pair talked about developing gaming, e-sports and fintech innovation in Canada and how to use these platforms to better engage the youth of today, according to a statement by the gaming company.
Mr Tan also presented Mr Trudeau with a gift – a customised Team Razer jacket, as well as some Razer peripherals and souvenirs.
For a serious international event, Mr Trudeau’s sock choices have necessarily been more conservative, though he has been known to don more creative designs.
For May the Fourth, a day commemorating the Star Wars films, Mr Trudeau wore mismatched socks featuring R2D2 and C3PO separately.
The Canadian leader even wore a pair of purple and yellow socks with ducks to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos in January.
2. FROM HAND-HOLDING… TO WAVE
Even sharp-eyed political watchers might have missed this.
Instead of crossing their arms and joining hands to form a wave, the 10 Asean leaders recently turned to waving with their right hands held high instead whenever they gather for a family photo.
At last year’s Asean Summit in Manila, the leaders were still doing the traditional “Asean-way handshake”. But this had reportedly befuddled some guests, such as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and US President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump was photographed using both of his hands to clasp the extended fingers of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, leaving Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte with a spare hand.
At the corner of the photo, Mr Medvedev merely grins with both hands – uncrossed – to his sides.
In January, as the leaders met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to mark 25 years of Asean-India relations, they were seen giving a jubilant wave of the hand as they posed for a photo in front of the Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavanwith, the official residence of the president.
Similarly at this year’s summit, the leaders have seemingly decided to do away with the awkward hand holding, leaving no chance at all for any photo opportunity to go awry.
3. CAN YOU SING THE ASEAN ANTHEM?
Local community choir The Vocal Consort charmed audiences at the opening ceremony of the summit on Tuesday as they performed a rousing rendition of the Asean Anthem.
While the Asean flag has since become a recognisable symbol of the region, not many would know the lyrics to the anthem, titled The Asean Way.
This did not faze Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, however, who were spotted mouthing the words to the lyrics with relative gusto at the ceremony.
The song made its debut at the 2009 Asean Summit in Hua Hin, a seaside town in southern Thailand, about a year after a panel of judges unanimously voted it as the winner of a regional songwriting competition.
Asean member states were keen to replace the former anthem, the Asean Hymn, which they felt was lacking in passion, and a competition was launched across the region to find a better fit.
The winning entry was written and composed by Thai nationals Kittikhun Sodprasert, Sampow Triudom and Payom Valaipatchra. They walked away with US$20,000 (S$27,500) in prize money.
The lyrics go like this:
Raise our flag high, sky high
Embrace the pride in our heart
Asean we are bonded as one
Look-in out to the world.
For peace, our goal from the very start
And prosperity to last.
We dare to dream we care to share.
Together for Asean
we dare to dream,
we care to share for it’s the way of Asean.
4. WHO HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST ASEAN SUMMIT ATTENDANCE?
The answer is not Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, though at 93, he is definitely the oldest world leader at this year’s summit.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei has attended Asean meetings for 34 years, more than a decade longer than Tun Dr Mahathir.
The 72-year-old Sultan, who is also Prime Minister of Brunei, celebrated his Golden Jubilee last October. More than 60,000 turned up to commemorate his five decades of rule over the kingdom.
5. AT THE SUMMIT: COC, RCEP, ABIS…
If you only understood the first three words of the line above, not to worry. The list of acronyms and abbreviations used at the summit can be mind-boggling, but we have you covered:
COC – Referring to a proposed code of conduct for the South China Sea.
RCEP – The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which involves 16 countries, which if concluded would be the world’s largest free trade deal.
ABIS – The Asean Business and Investment Summit.
MOU – A memorandum of understanding, such as the one signed between Canada and Singapore on cyber security cooperation.
AANZFTA – The Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
ASCN – The Asean Smart Cities Network, a collaborative platform where cities work together towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development.
6. JUST IN: JOURNALISTS ON THE JOB
While several of the world’s leaders were busy at different high-level meetings, many of our colleagues from various publications and agencies were busy too.
In between furiously typing out news reports and rushing to the next important doorstop interview, journalists found time to grab some good grub at the Suntec City convention centre.
Mr Nikolai Ivanov, a correspondent with Russian TV news channel Mic Izvestia, held up a copy of The Straits Times while working on his news piece.
He said he was telling viewers in Russia about ST’s coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit, as well as Asean-Russian relations.
7. A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
While attending the Summit here, Indonesian President Joko Widodo was craving a taste of home. And he managed to find it – at Lucky Plaza.
In a Facebook post in Bahasa Indonesia, Mr Joko said that he managed to find a restaurant in the Orchard Road mall on Tuesday, and ordered bebek goreng, or deep fried duck, the eatery’s specialty.
He also had sayur asam, tofu, tempeh, onion sambal, and shrimp paste sambal.
His son, Kaesang Pangarep, who is studying in Singapore, joined him as well. Also with them were Indonesian ambassador to Singapore Ngurah Swajaya and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
He added: “In this neighbouring country, there are many restaurants that are familiar names in Indonesia: from Bebek Tepi Sawah, Sari Ratu, to Restoran Garuda. Unfortunately, although the owner of Sang Pisang (a popular eatery) is in Singapore, his pisang goreng is not sold here yet.”
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