My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

OTGV #3 - Rotary Peace Scholars

Broadcasted on: 12/08/02

The President of Rotary International came a-calling to Singapore last week.

He's former Thai Deputy Prime Minister Dr Bichai Rattakul, and he brought along news of a new Rotary initiative, the Rotary world Peace scholars.

Hi welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I find out more about Dr Bichai Rattakul's vision.

Dr Bichai Rattakul's term of presidency at the Rotary International is two years.

During his tenure, he wishes to accomplish a monumental task -- to create a world with less conflict.

"It's a dream actually, what could be done to try and resolve conflicts around the world. Rotary can do something to promote world peace and understanding indirectly. Therefore the thing that we think we could do is to try to have a centre to study peace and development. When they go back to their home, they will be able to use what they have learnt in order to resolve conflicts. Let's put it that way."

It's a sweet dream.

But tellingly, the inaugural batch of 70 World Peace scholars doesn't include a single Israeli or Palestinian.

It would seem that the Middle East region is in much need of conflict mediators right now.

But if a country does not have any rotary chapters, its people cannot apply to be a Rotary peace scholar.

I asked Dr Bichai if this represents a setback to his vision.

"This should be studied very carefully. But the problem is this: we would love to have candidates from different countries regardless of whether they have rotary or not. But the criteria have been set by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, stipulated very clearly that a club has to sponsor. This is very unfortunate indeed. But I think we would be able to do more than that. For instance China, some programmes which we called work-studies exchange. Now in this case, Rotary does not exist in China at all."

The World Peace Scholarship is laudable.

It'll see 70 scholars each year with a possible increase to 90 next year.

But if the bulk of the scholars continue to be from North America and not from the troubled regions of the Middle East or the Indian sub-continent, then the scheme may have minimal impact on world peace.

However, the Rotarian network itself is interesting and worth a scrutiny.

Founded in 1905 in Chicago, it swiftly grew from a parochial gathering of businessmen into an international network dedicated to serving local and world communities.

Surely within such a structure lies hope for conflict resolution?

Most rotarians are at the top of the business or professional apex.

Rotarians are bound to different countries through not just the Rotary network but also business and professional ties.

Dr Bichai says rotarians are already doing more.

"Rotary clubs around the world has so many projects which concerns what you have said just now. This conflict resolution or Peace Scholars is not a new concept. Before that we have so many programmes promoting peace and goodwill amongst nations like in Afghanistan. Rotary international has set up a committee to work in Pakistan to help the refugees. Afghanistan we do not have Rotary but we do have rotary in Pakistan."

Dr Bichai says it is impossible for Rotary clubs to stay out of politics if it is drawn into the conflict mediation between nations.

He says it's best to go through indirect channels such as the Rotary world Peace scholarship which can be awarded to civil servants and budding policy makers.

That way there'll be a promise of future harmony.

Dr Bichai highlights the difficulty if rotarians get involved in direct conflict management that may result in speaking against their own governments.

"One must remember that rotary is not involved in politics. I was a politician before. For Forty years. I think that's enough. [laughter] Supposed Michael Parry, he's the rotary governor, and there's a conflict between country A and country B, and he comes out, Mr governor Michael Parry, say bluh bluh bluh. Its very difficult, its very difficult therefore one has to be very careful indeed."

Rotary club members and their relations cannot apply for the World Peace scholarship.

But this doesn't mean that they won't learn about conflict management and solutions.

Rotarians will have the opportunity to better understand regional conflict management from Malaysia's former Foreign Minister Ahmad Rithauddin at the Rotary presidential conference on Peace and Development in Malaysia next month.

"The reason why I invited Tengku Rithauddin to speak is because he is one of those few people who have been negotiating with Thailand on the conflict in the Gulf of Thailand. After 20 years of negotiation, we reached a conflict resolution by saying that 'why do we have to quarrel?' The gas and the petroleum are there. Why don't we jointly set up a committee and dig something out of it. And both countries agreed with that. After twenty years of negotiations, of quarrel. I happened to served as co-chairman of this committee with him. So he's going to speak on this conflict resolution as a case study. It would be very good for the rotarians to know."

It will be a utopian world if there is no conflict.

The world that has been irrevocably changed after September 11 and all baby steps to the utopian ideal are very much welcomed.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Rotary International


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