Gandhi, Sihanouk get Soekarno

Two leadership figures from Asia, Mahatma Gandhi of India and King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, received the 2008 Soekarno Prize on Monday to honor their contributions to the ideologies of Indonesia's first president.

The prizes, received by Gandhi's great-grandson, Tushar Arun Gandhi, and Sihanouk's daughter, Samdech Norodom Arunrasmy, were awarded in conjunction with the inauguration of the Soekarno Center at the Blanco Renaissance Museum in Ubud, Gianyar.

The Soekarno Center is an institution which examines the ideologies of Soekarno, known affectionately as Bung Karno, Indonesia's first president and one of its most controversial figures.

Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, Soekarno's daughter and head of the Soekarno Center's Guiding Council, said the awards were given to honor Gandhi's and Sihanouk's dedication towards building Asia.

Soekarno's leadership, Sukmawati said, was heavily inspired by both figures who struggled together with Soekarno in achieving a stronger Asia.

"(Soekarno's) words showed the spirit of the great soul Mahatma Gandhi. His words showed the great vision of King Father Norodom Sihanouk," she said during the award ceremony.

The ceremony, she added, would become an annual event to celebrate the figures whose struggle reflected Soekarno's leadership qualities and teachings.

"I hope the Soekarno awards can further spread Bung Karno's great work as a figure who remained true in igniting the spirit of Asians in international politics," she said.

Tushar Arun Gandhi said he was honored to be able to represent his great-grandfather in receiving the award, saying the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Soekarno must be passed on to Asia's younger generations.

"My great grandfather Mahatma Gandhi said Asia had a responsibility to provide leadership to the world," he said.

"President Soekarno was one such leader who had the vision and the abilities to provide a dynamic and profitable leadership, not only as the president of Indonesia, but through his titanic statesmanship.

"He became one of the larger than life leaders of Asia," said Tushar, who founded the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in honor of his great-grandfather.

Samdech Norodom Arunrasmy said the award was an extraordinary recognition of her father.

"My country, Cambodia, had a special place in Soekarno's affections," she said.

"And I remember that (Soekarno) visited us in Cambodia several times where he enjoyed our traditional dishes and the hospitality of our people."

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