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20th Meeting Of The ASCMG 22-26 July 1997

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Group photo : Mrs Lourdes Tibig is in the 2nd row, 5th from left. Donald Tambunan (from the

ASEAN Secretariat) is in front, extreme right. Next to him is Mr E.H. Al-Majed, the WMO rep.

ASCMG is the ASEAN Subcommittee on Meteorology and Geophysics. It oversees collaboration between the ASEAN member countries in coordinating various programmes, sharing information (such as that on haze pollution & volcanic ash), & implementing warning systems. The Subcommittee meets annually, and in 1997 Singapore hosted the Meeting.

I was assigned to help out that year. The first thing I had to do was make nametags & invitation cards. The nametags were to come in two colours, blue for those of us in the organising committee (called the Local Secretariat) & grey for the delegates. The invitation cards were for two official dinners the delegates were to attend, one hosted by our Director & the other by the Minister of State for Communications.

One of our officers over at the Admin section, HS, was overall in charge. She was very meticulous & particular, & a stickler for doing things by the book. At that time, Laos & Myanmar had just joined ASEAN, & HS cautioned me about using the correct logo because the number of rice stalks on it had now changed from 8 to 10 (one for each member country). She also wanted me to print the logo in the EXACT specified colours (namely Pantone Blue 286, Pantone Red 032 & Pantone Process Yellow).

I felt it was unrealistic to think one could get the exact colours using an Epson printer; whatever is seen on the PC monitor isn't going to be exactly the same colour when printed out using a home printer, unless a proper calibration has been done. We could have asked a professional printer to do the job, but I guess we were working on a tight budget & it wasn't practical to get it professionally done for such a small number of nametags/cards.

Fortunately HS seemed satisfied with what I produced. After that she led me to a room where a pile of briefcases was lying on the floor next to a mountain of photocopied papers. I was rather shocked when she told me to sort the papers out & put one set into each briefcase. This is a mindless task & the office attendant could have done it. I enjoy sorting out things for church work or charity events, but in this case MSS had already spent a lot of money training me to be a meteorologist & it didn't make sense to be paying me a Division 1 Officer's salary & having me do Division 4 work. However since this was a one-off thing, I supposed it didn't really matter. I was at it the whole morning, & around noon HS appeared, looking flustered, & told me to go for lunch & that she would finish the job.

The delegates were basically the Directors or Deputy Directors of all the ASEAN Met. Offices. A representative from WMO and another from the ASEAN Secretariat were also coming. Most of the delegates were arriving the day before the Meeting, & Johnny, one of our Technical Officers, asked me to drive the ASEAN Secretariat rep from the airport to the hotel. The rep's name was Donald Tambunan, and Johnny told me, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was Indonesian, and a "nice & chatty young man".

When I met him he certainly turned out to be an animated & talkative young man (reminding me in some ways of his famous Duck namesake), & very enthusiastic about his job. Even so I was racking my brains wondering what to say to him in the car, because I knew next to nothing about the ASEAN Secretariat. Fortunately Johnny came along with another passenger for me, Mrs Lourdes Tibig from the Philippines. She had come in place of her Director, & seemed a veteran at meetings like these, so she & Donald had plenty to talk about during the drive to the hotel.

The first thing the participants from Laos, Vietnam & Myanmar did was to check out of the hotel (Merchant Court) & check into a cheaper one, I forget where now. I discovered this was their usual practice whenever they travelled overseas for seminars or meetings. They manage to save quite a lot of their allowance by doing so.

On the first morning I helped man the reception, handing the delegates their nametags & one briefcase each. This was my first time at such an event, so I found it interesting. When the Meeting started, my colleague CS was chuckling because he'd discovered that one of the Vietnamese women delegates was a Senator; he seemed quite tickled by this. I was supposed to help record minutes. I wasn't that familiar with all the programmes the Subcommittee had been coordinating, but fortunately we had the agenda in front of us, & rather than miss anything I resorted to what I normally do during uni lectures - simply scribble down everything that was said, whether I understood it or not! :lol:

Donald Tambunan was in his element during the Meeting. The WMO rep (I think it was Mr E.H. Al-Majed) was a quiet man, who only spoke up when he had to. For some reason CS found Donald quite amusing. There were also a couple of informal discussions held late at night, which CS had to chair, & he was chuckling after one of them because it seems that some of the delegates preferred listening to Mr Al-Majed rather than Donald Tambunan. The latter was quite agitated by this. "But they should listen to me!" he protested, "This is an ASEAN meeting! I am from the ASEAN Secretariat! I am more important than him!!"

During one of the tea breaks, one of the Vietnamese delegates approached us & wanted a softcopy of the nametags because the next ASCMG Meeting was going to be held in Vietnam. I tried explaining to him that he would have to somehow erase the dates if he wanted to use it. Someone who went to Vietnam the following year for the Meeting came back & told me that the nametags there had been virtually identical to those I had made.

CS was the one doing most of the work for the minutes, & he had to stay up late to finish them before the last day so that they could be approved by the delegates & a copy made for each delegate to bring back. As the final session was ending, the Thai Director-General started handing out gifts of small notebooks bound with Jim Thompson Thai silk.

After the Meeting I had to ferry Mr Al-Majed & two of the Malaysian delegates to the airport. I didn't have to worry about conversation this time, because one of the Malaysians talked nonstop all the way. It was pretty amazing - he just went on & on, a virtual monologue. I've never met anyone since who has been able to talk like that.

A few days after the Meeting, HS gave each of the Local Secretariat a small gift to thank us for our hard work. It was quite nice of her; I received a letter holder in soft, pale wood, & am still using it to hold all my bookmarks to this day.


The Local Secretariat take a picture; letter holder

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