Friday, February 28, 2003

Colombia to learn from Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR: The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit is over and most of the foreign leaders have headed home, but Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco-Isakson chose to go the “extra mile” here for her problem-plagued country.
And her efforts may well pay off for her homeland, which is caught in a battle with guerillas, the drug mafia and mass cocaine production.
Barco-Isakson: 'We are impressed with Felda's smallholdings concept and the way the plantations are managed'
Barco-Isakson, who headed Colombia's delegation to the NAM summit, visited the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik on Wednesday to seek remedies for her country.
Colombia is looking for suitable crops to replace 120,000ha of cocaine plantations that is being fumigated in the country.
“Malaysia has successfully cultivated palm oil and rubber, and we want to learn from your experience.
“We have set a target to destroy the illegal plantations within the next two or three years, and rubber and palm oil could be suitable alternatives. Colombia and Malaysia share a similar climate,'' Barco-Isakson said in an interview.
Explaining the situation back home, the minister said the national economy, which had been affected by internal security problems, was slowly gaining steam with a 2% to 3% growth rate expected this year.
“We need the support of Malaysia to continue to grow. We are impressed with Felda's smallholdings concept and the way the plantations are managed. Despite Colombia's larger size (compared with Malaysia), we grow very little rubber,'' she added.
She said president Alvaro Uribe had set new economic targets and was observing a “zero tolerance” stance towards the drug mafia, adding that measures were being taken to cut off financing to them.
“We have done our best to get the various groups to sit and talk peace with the government. But they have not seemed interested, so we will fight to defeat them,'' Barco-Isakson said.
To make full use of her visit here, the minister also invited Colombia's heads of mission in Japan, South Korea and China for a briefing held at the residence of Colombian ambassador to Malaysia Fernando Marin Valencia on Monday.