Monday January 19, 2004

Australia, US aim for better ties with Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR: With Malaysia and Singapore pledging to mend their testy bilateral ties, Australia and the United States also want to be next on the list.
Australian High Commissioner James Wise and US Ambassador Marie T. Huhtala, whose nations are close allies in the war against terror, are working to put relations on a firm footing with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration.
Wise can count on some extra “inside” help, with experienced diplomat Simon Merrifield taking over as his new deputy.
Wise (left) and his new deputy Merrifield
As the former head of the political and economic section at the High Commission here, Merrifield is well-equipped for the task of helping pursue Wise’s diplomatic objectives.
Introducing his No. 2 to a gathering at his residence here on Wednesday, Wise said he was glad to have a diplomat of Merrifield’s calibre by his side.
“He knows his tasks well and he will be an asset to the Australian High Commission here,” added the envoy, who is completing his first year of service here.
Wise said both Abdullah and Australian Prime Minister John Howard had exchanged warm letters and were looking forward to improving bilateral relations.
Canberra has despatched Peter Doyle to assume Merrifield’s previous post. Australia maintains one of its largest foreign missions in Malaysia, with 188 staff.
US Embassy officials are also upbeat on the prospects of improved relations with Malaysia.
Things have got off to a good start this year, with the US Administration sending one of its top State Department officials, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Relations John R. Bolton, to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Bolton delivered a written message of congratulations from his boss, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, to Najib on Tuesday in honour of the latter’s promotion to DPM.
Huhtala, who will complete her term here later this year, said the Bush Administration had confidence in Abdullah’s capability of steering Malaysia forward and nurturing bilateral relations.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"