another asian snub to australia

  1. Yak
    13,672 Posts.
    Mahathir rubs in Howard 'insult'
    By Kimina Lyall
    October 9, 2003

    INDONESIAN officials put a veto on plans to invite John Howard to speak alongside 11 regional heads of government at a key ASEAN business forum this week, in another clear snub to Australia.

    Mahathir: opinionated

    The Australian has learnt that organisers wanted to invite the Prime Minister to speak to leading Southeast Asia business leaders, but the Indonesian Foreign Ministry barred the idea.

    Capping off a week of unfriendliness towards Australia, the revelation came as retiring Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivered a parting shot in a long history of bilateral acrimony, suggesting Australia would never have a place in the region until Australians started identifying as Asians and "behaving like Asians (by) not being too critical of other people".

    In a press conference to mark the close of what will be his last ASEAN leaders' summit, Dr Mahathir said that his successors "may change their mind" about Australia, but he considered the country to be "some sort of a transplant from another region".

    He spoke as Rudy Pesik, the chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, told The Australian he was prevented from inviting Mr Howard to the inaugural ASEAN Business and Investment Summit that ran alongside the forum.

    "I had plans to invite John Howard to speak here. But because of political reasons I was discouraged from including him," he said.

    He said the message was delivered from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the signs were it was due to conflict between the two countries over the Bali memorial service this weekend.

    "Although we are not a political (event) there are political implications," he said, admitting he reluctantly agreed to the omission.

    An invitation to Mr Howard would have allowed Australia to counter the fall-out effect of the annual forum's main message: that Southeast Asian nations are looking northeast and west to trade partners and are little interested in advancing their relationships with Australia.

    Earlier in the week, ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong revealed that plans to invite Mr Howard to an "ASEAN +" meeting, such as has been held this week with the leaders of China, South Korea, Japan and India, were not being actively pursued.

    Australia has long known that Malaysia is its chief opponent in its efforts to forge greater economic ties with ASEAN, but the intervention of the Indonesians is a fresh development that confirms a suspicion that Australia's relationship with its closest neighbour is poor.

    Dr Mahathir, who is standing down as prime minister on October 31, denied that his antagonism towards Australia was motivated by bigotry.

    "I think Australia distinguish us by race. It is not we (sic), it is Australia. They think of Asians as Asian, they cannot think of themselves as Asian. If they don't think about race, they'll say 'we are Asians, what's wrong with that?', and behave like Asians, not being too critical of other people.

    "Australia has made it known to the world that it wants to be the deputy sheriff to look over this region. It is very difficult to get along with deputy sheriffs, you are always looking over your shoulder.

    "Australia must decide whether it is Europe or America, or it is Asia. If it is Asia there's no problem, but we see Australia as some sort of a transplant from another region with the same thinking of the transplanted entity, so as far as I'm concerned of course Australia is not Asia, but of course by the end of this month I will not be around and people may change their mind."

    The Australian

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