Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Malaysia-Indonesia should speak in one voice in defending anti-palm oil campaign

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kuala Lumpur (ANTARA/Bernama) -- Malaysia should not be alone in battling the anti-palm oil smear campaign, mounted by European activists and non-government organisations (NGOs), former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Tuesday.

"Indonesia is also a leading oil palm producer. If both countries can join forces and speak out in one voice, it will be more effective," he said in his keynote address at the Malaysia-Indonesia Economic Seminar 2009.

Dr Mahathir said the positive outcome would not only benefit Malaysia but Indonesia and other major palm oil producers.

United States soybean producers in the 1980`s claimed that palm oil was unhealthy and pressured legislators to ban the import of palm oil into the country.

This time around European NGOs claimed that the world`s two largest palm oil producers, Malaysia and Indonesia, were destroying the natural habitat of the orang utans by felling trees to make way for oil palm estates.

Netherlands has made announcements to discriminate palm oil from being used in the biofuel industry, unless certified from sustainable sources, even though a similar call is not made for other vegetable oils from other countries.

Dr Mahathir, who was Prime Minister for 22 years, called on leaders of both countries to be very vocal in presenting their stand at international forums.

"This way, both countries will earn the respect of others," he said.
"Normally, at the Asean level, whatever decision taken by Malaysia and Indonesia will be accepted and not questioned by other members of the grouping.

At a question-and-answer session later, Dr Mahathir said he had advised Indonesian President Suharto not to resort to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to tackle the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

"Perhaps, the crisis had a much more far-reaching impact on Indonesia as the rupiah plumetted, compared with the ringgit, forcing the country to turn for IMF help. Asked what he would have done if he was the President of Indonesia then, Dr Mahathir, without elaborating, said: "I would have done the same thing I did as the Prime Minister of Malaysia."

Almost all the questions from the floor came from Indonesian delegates who were impressed with the rapid development Dr Mahathir had brought to Malaysia throughout his administration.

Asked on his yet-to-realize dream as he approached his 85th birthday on Dec 20, he said," I wish to see Malaysia attain developed nation status in the targetted 2020." (*)