KL intent on forging stronger links


The size of the delegation was an indication of the importance attached to the visit being made by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the issues which the neighbouring countries intend to discuss.

Analysts said the presence of three Cabinet ministers, three chief ministers, three Umno vice-presidents and nearly 50 businessmen in an 80-member entourage was a clear sign Malaysia was intent on strengthening political cooperation and reviving economic links.

There will also be some problem areas to smooth over – including concerns over terrorism in the region, Malaysia’s repatriation of thousands of illegal Indonesian workers and overlapping claims to the Sipadan and Ligitan islands, an issue now before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Malaysia has been careful not to offend sensitivities here over Jakarta’s response to rising militancy. But sources said the visitors would be registering their concerns.

The three-day visit could pave the way for another trip by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to Indonesia this year – a follow up to his visit in 2000, when both sides agreed to meet periodically.

‘We are building on what he did then,’ Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, an aide to Datuk Seri Abdullah, said. He said a key aim was economic cooperation. One area Kuala Lumpur was looking at was ‘reactivating’ the growth triangles – regions of economic interaction.

‘We want to see more cooperation between some of the Malaysian states and Indonesian provinces and see more investments,’ he added.

‘That was why we needed to bring along the chief ministers of Johor, Perlis and Kedah.’

Also accompanying Datuk Seri Abdullah are Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak, Education Minister Musa Mohamad, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and National Economic Action Council executive director Mustapa Mohamed.

The presence of the businessmen was also aimed at encouraging bilateral trade and investment.

Aside from reviving growth triangles at a time when Indonesian provinces have been granted more autonomy, some Malaysian firms are also bidding for assets being sold off by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency.

Datuk Seri Abdullah disclosed after talks with President Megawati Sukarnoputri that Indonesia was prepared to back Malaysia’s bid to host the secretariat for the ‘Asean + 3’ process – the meetings of Asean and China, Japan and South Korea.

‘Indonesia understands and appreciates that wish and is prepared to support it,’ the Bernama national news agency quoted him as saying.

Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur see the trip as an opportunity for networking between an Indonesian leadership that came to power last year and Dr Mahathir’s heir-apparent.

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