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One of Indonesia’s closest neighbors, Malaysia, has just witnessed the inauguration of Najib Razak as the country’s sixth prime minister. Speaking in an interview with  Indonesian journalists, including  The Jakarta Post’s Primastuti Handayani, at his office in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Razak highlighted the importance of improving the love-hate ties between the two countries. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Question: How do you see the economic relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia, especially during a global economic crisis like this?

Answer: We are currently focusing on the investment and integration of the two countries’ economies. We will advance bilateral ties both ways. We welcome Indonesian investment in Malaysia, such as in the hotel industry like the Sheraton Imperial and Westin Langkawi, while Indonesia has also welcomed Malaysian investment, especially in oil palm plantations.

We also have a strategic investment, especially in power plants. For example, the Bakun [hydroelectric] power plant [on the Balui River, Sarawak, Malaysia]: The power plant is expected to supply power to the Malaysia peninsula and also to Kalimantan. It will have a large impact [on the economy]...There has been a feasibility study on building a bridge connecting Sumatra  and Malacca by the
private sector.The global economic crisis has also hit both Malaysia and Indonesia. The Malaysian government plans to inject a financial stimulus [worth US$16.2 billion] to stimulate domestic demand.

How bad is the impact of the crisis on Indonesian migrant workers?

Malaysia is willing to discuss migrant workers with Indonesia because it’s an important issue for both countries. Many Malaysian employers are no longer able to afford Indonesian workers. Many in the private sector have expressed hope that they will not have to lay the workers off. We hope the incentives given by the government will help the private sector not to lay off the Indonesian workers. I talked to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono two nights ago about the condition and he understood [the issue] well.We will not tolerate Malaysian employers who abuse their Indonesian maids. We must respect workers’ rights.

How about the security cooperation between Malaysia and its neighbors?

On the external front, we don’t really have threats. Internally, there are some militant groups, but we have managed to curb them. If there is a militant leader from Indonesia, we can also monitor him well. The last case was Abu Bakar Baashir, who recruited Malaysians like Noordin Moh. Top and Azahari. But that’s not a good example.There should also be a better arrangement among countries in the Malacca Strait to deal with rampant piracy in the area.

The transition of power from Abdullah Badawi to yourself went smoothly, although you face tough challenges such as internal ethnic conflicts and an economic recession. How do you deal with it?

My priority is to implement

“One Malaysia, people first, performance now”.“One Malaysia” emphasizes mutual respect and trust. The feeling of trust with one another should be built consciously, to create national unity. There should be no group that feels left behind in the process. It doesn’t mean we will erase the affirmative action overnight.“People first” means we are not an elitist government. The government should not be pro big corporations. There should be less formality and no red carpet.“Performance now” means the people want to see our immediate actions.

Has democratization in Indonesia been a major influence on Malaysia?

Both countries have different political systems. In the long run, there should be a political discourse, a dialogue to see development in Malaysia and Indonesia.Democracy in Indonesia has leaped far from the previously controlled system to a free, or too free, system and there has been a move to bring it back under control.
Democracy in Malaysia is shown by freedom with responsibility… [or else] it can become anarchy.For example, the move to supervise the ISA [Internal Security Act] to create civil liberty … I have released 13 detainees charged with the ISA, to show the government has put forward civil liberty.

How would  you deal with the relationship of our two countries, a relationship that is like that of siblings often embroiled in dispute?

We must improve the level of comfort between Indonesia and Malaysia.It doesn’t apply only on the top level between the two countries’ leaders, between Pak SBY and me, or back then between Pak JK [Vice President Jusuf Kalla] and me, but also with other groups, including the media, to support me as a
Malaysian leader.I hope the message can be accepted by different groups in Indonesia. Sometimes the media have been provocative in covering issues between the two countries.We should not be in negative competition. We must see the glory of Malaysia means.Indonesia’s glory too, and vice versa. By assisting each other, both countries will get positive aspects from the relationship.

Malaysian leaders have good ties with Indonesian leaders like SBY, JK and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri. What would the relationship be like if Indonesia had a new leader?

There should be a continuation in the relationship between both countries.We must understand that Indonesia plays a very important role for Malaysia, and it is not just because of strategic considerations. Indonesia and Malaysia have similarities in culture, religion and emotions.

It’s difficult to separate the two countries.

Get ready to vote tomorrow : Kampanye Damai Pemilu Indonesia 2009

Resource : TheJakartaPost

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