Wednesday 27 November 2002
Sarcasm flies from Malaysia
A war of words between Malaysia and Australia is continuing as Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad has responded sarcastically to jibes from a leading Australian politician.
Mahathir, told to take a "running jump" over his remark that Australia could not be accepted as an Asian country if it played "deputy sheriff" to the United States, suggested the Australians were arrogant and should pipe down, the official Bernama news agency reported.
"We say less things about Australia than Australians say about us, calling me a dictator, authoritarian government.
"I am the first authoritarian government elected to become a dictator and then resigning as a dictator. So this is the first dictator in the world who has resigned while still quite healthy," Mahathir told reporters on his arrival home from a trip to Europe.
The row began when Mahathir, who has announced his intention to step down in October next year, told an Australian newspaper in an interview that Australia had gone too far in identifying with US aims and tactics in the war against terrorism.
"If you (Australia) take the position of being a sheriff, or deputy sheriff, to America, you cannot very well be accepted by the countries of this region," he said.
This prompted Australian Labor opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd to say in a television interview on Tuesday: "I think frankly it's time the prime minister of Malaysia took a running jump".
Mahathir said it was possible for Australia to be welcomed in Asia provided it was willing to change its ways but suggested that was unlikely.
"If it chooses to become a truly Asian country and stop giving advice to everybody, assuming that it knows better about other countries than they know about themselves, I think we will welcome them," he said.
But that would be a big change and "I don't think they can achieve it," he said.
November 25, 2002
Labor to Malaysian PM: Go jump
MALAYSIA'S prime minister should take a running jump over comments Australia had to decide whether it was Asian or western, Labor has said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said Mahathir Mohammed was simply wrong and Australia would not "sit back and cop it sweet".
Dr Mahathir said Australia had gone too far in identifying with the United States' aims and tactics in the war against terrorism.
"Australia has to decide whether it's an Asian country or a Western country," Dr Mahathir told The Weekend Australian, adding Australia would always be regarded as an outsider in its own region.
Mr Rudd said the climate of terrorism and the recent Bali bomb blasts had changed the way the Government advised its citizens.
"I think frankly it's time the prime minister of Malaysia took a running jump," he told Channel 7's Sunrise program today.
"The bottom line is we have had nearly 100 Australians murdered in Bali in a terrorist attack.
"Now that has radically affected the way in which we are going about advising Australians about the safety of travelling in the region."
Mr Rudd admitted better relations may enhance security between nations.
But he argued: "That doesn't mean you've just got to sit back and cop it sweet when the prime minister of Malaysia says something which I think is just plain wrong and his statement as reported over the weekend is just plain wrong."
Federal Tourism Minister Joe Hockey said as a member of the Government, he had to be more diplomatic.
But he added: "I understand where Kevin's coming from."