INTERNATIONAL

Singapore scraps skits at ASEAN session

SINGAPORE: Russia’s Foreign Minister came as Darth Vader in 2005. The next year the top Japanese diplomat hammed it up as Dick Tracy and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered up a classical number on the piano.

Light-hearted dinner skits by Foreign Ministers have been a part of the Asia-Pacific security dialogue, hosted by the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

But host Singapore scratched the top-billing event at this year’s ASEAN Regional Forum for “practical reasons,” said a conference spokesman. “It depends on how big a song and dance you want it to be,” he said. “In place of that we can assure you the food will be excellent and the company will be just as good.”

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the event might have been cancelled because some delegations were taking “the performances too seriously to the point where it felt uncomfortable to compete.” He said some delegations kept their scripts secret and rehearsed “sometimes in the bathroom trying to outwit each other.”

“That was not the point. The point is to relax and bond. But it is the decision of the host not to have it, fine,” Mr. Surin said.

One of the memorable skits was in 2005 at the meeting in Vientiane, Laos, when the Russians stole the show with a performance bordering on professional, with costumes, music and props.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the stage dressed as Star Wars villain Darth Vader, complete with a dark hooded cape and a lighted sword. Darth Vader had left singing with the crowd: “ASEAN, Superstar. You are the best friend of Russia.”

In 2006, Ms. Riceperformed on the piano, while Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso came in a Dick Tracy-like overcoat . — AP

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