Indonesia and Malaysia to continue cooperation on combatting palm oil discrimination

JAKARTA: Indonesia and Malaysia are committed to working together to combat international discrimination against palm oil, the countries’ leaders said in Jakarta on Friday (Feb 5).

In a press conference after a four-eye meeting with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at Merdeka Palace, Indonesian president Joko Widodo said: “Regarding the issue of palm oil, Indonesia will continue to combat the discrimination against palm oil and this fight will be more effective if it is done together.”

“Indonesia hopes for the same commitment from Malaysia on this palm issue,” he added. 

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest exporter of palm oil. 

Mr Muhyiddin said both leaders expressed their concerns on the anti-palm oil campaign that is happening in Europe and Australia. 

“This anti-palm oil campaign is baseless, does not reflect the sustainability of the palm oil industry in the world, and contradicts the commitment of European Union (EU) and World Trade Organization (WTO) on the free trade practice,” he said. 

READ: Reciprocate government’s gesture of not shutting down economy by complying with SOPs, urges Malaysian PM Muhyiddin

The prime minister said he informed Mr Widodo that Malaysia has initiated legal actions against the EU on Jan 15 at WTO, like what Indonesia has previously done. 

“Malaysia will continue to cooperate with Indonesia on the issue of palm oil discrimination, especially on strengthening the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries, so that we can protect the palm oil industry and save millions of smallholders whose livelihood depends solely on palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia,” Mr Muhyiddin said. 

This was Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s first official overseas visit since assuming office last year.

He arrived in Jakarta on late Thursday afternoon at the invitation of Mr Widodo.

The two leaders also discussed issues related to the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, transboundary haze and the implementation of a reciprocal green lane (RGL).

ASEAN MEETING ON MYANMAR

Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is commonly known, said both leaders also discussed the current political crisis in Myanmar. 

They have instructed their respective foreign ministers to talk to the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) so that a meeting can be held on the issue, he added.

Concurring, Mr Muhyiddin said the current political situation “a step backwards in the process of democracy in the country”. 

“It is worried that political turmoil in Myanmar will jeopardise the peace and stability in the region,” he added. 

Muhyiddin Yassin and Joko Widodo in Jakarta, Indonesia

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin visits Jakarta in February 2021 on the invitation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. (Photo: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau/Laily Rachev) 

On the issue of the South China Sea, Mr Widodo said stability in the region can be achieved if all countries respect the international laws, including the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea. 

Mr Muhyiddin urged all sides to avoid actions that will cause tension and are provocative in nature, practise self-restraint and refrain from militarisation. 

“Malaysia is committed to solve issues related to the South China Sea in a constructive away, by using suitable diplomatic forums and channels,” he said.  

READ: Commentary – ASEAN can do better on Myanmar this time

Following the meeting, both leaders proceeded to perform Friday prayers at the Baiturrahim Mosque within the palace grounds, followed by an official luncheon hosted by Mr Widodo.

Strict COVID-19 protocols were put in place for this visit, Malaysia’s foreign affairs ministry had said earlier in a statement, adding that there would be no physical contact during the trip.

Mr Muhyiddin also instructed the duration of the official visit to be less than 24 hours to minimise risks amid the pandemic.

He will return to Malaysia as soon as the luncheon has ended and undergo mandatory quarantine as prescribed by the Ministry of Health, according to the foreign ministry’s statement. 

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