|Datuk Salman Ahmad|
Malaysia Envoy Says Fond Farewell To Australia
By Neville DCruz
CANBERRA, Aug 31 (Bernama) -- Datuk Salman Ahmad, the ever-popular Malaysian high commissioner to Australia, leaves Canberra for Kuala Lumpur tonight, having served what he described as "a most memorable four and a half years in this country".
"They (the years served) have been enlightening, enriching and enjoyable," he told Bernama in Canberra this week.
"The position of high commissioner in Australia is highly regarded. This is due to the strong relations, historical links and the importance of Australia to Malaysia and the region," he noted.
He said much had been achieved in recent years, particularly at the political level. This is much appreciated at both ends.
"We have achieved much in defence, education, trade and investment...culture and people-to-people relations have been and remain the main thrust that binds us strongly."
Salman paid tribute to his Asean colleagues in Canberra. "Malaysia is fortunate to be among friendly and co-operative neighbours that make the region as stable as it is.
"The Asean Canberra Committee (ACC) has worked closely to advance relations with Australia.
"We were delighted and honoured when Foreign Minister Bob Carr graced our first Asean Day reception this year," he said.
The Malaysian envoy said one of the highlights of his tenure in Canberra was the signing of the highly-anticipated Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement last year, followed by the Asean FTA.
"I was also happy to have put across Malaysia's arguments to defeat a palm oil labeling Bill at the Australian Parliament and provide input to the proposed restriction of timber-based products into Australia.
Despite having thousands of Malaysians studying in Australia, it was pleasing and encouraging that he encountered few problems with them.
"In fact, many universities have told me that Malaysian students work hard, they are polite and respectful and are a great credit to our country," he said, noting that Australians were impressed that Malaysia took the leading role in "the global movement of moderates".
"This is an initiative of (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak which rejects extremism and seeks peace. This is appreciated by Australians and the foreign diplomats in Canberra."
Salman said it was most rewarding working in Canberra and could not speak more highly of the co-operation and goodwill he and his staff had received from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and officials from agencies, defence and education, in particular.
He said the Malaysian community in Australia was thriving in their professions and doing remarkably well in business and in the construction industry.
"I have many Malaysians now living and working here. I have encouraged them to return home to help in our nation-building. Almost all still have a soft spot for Malaysia
as they say, "you can take the person out of Malaysia but you cannot take Malaysia out of the person."
A keen golfer, he has enjoyed playing in Canberra and other parts of Australia, but particularly, likes the Malaysian developer Maha Sinnathmby's own golf club at Springfield near Brisbane.
Salman revealed that soon after arriving in Canberra, his wife, Tengku Karina Yusof, wanted to pack up and return to Malaysia.
"She found Canberra so quiet, lonely. It seemed our huge house was in a ghost suburb. And Canberra's cold climate did not help.
"But things changed gradually and today, Karina thinks Canberra is a marvellous city. She has made many good friends in the general public and diplomatic circles and loves the quiet and peace of Canberra."
On Monday, the Malaysian High Commission celebrated a double event
the anniversary of Malaysia's independence and Malaysia's National Day. It was attended by heads of foreign missions in Canberra, as well as Australian foreign affairs officials and armed forces officers.
It is reported that Salman's next posting will be in Berlin.