Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
Alhamdulillahi rabbil a’lamin, wassalah tuwassala mua’la ashrafil anbiya iwalmursalin, wa’ala alihi wasahbihi ajma’in
Thank you Asaal and Wafa, our emcees for this afternoon,
Sudanese-Malaysian People Friendship Association
Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme Alumni Association
PETRONAS Sudan Office
The Malaysian Students in Sudan
Ladies and gentlemen
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh and a very Good Afternoon.
Alhamdulillah, let us express our deepest gratitude to Allah SWT who has blessed us to be here to celebrate Malaysia’s 64th National Day and the 58th Malaysia Day anniversaries this year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
As all of you know, Malaya gain her independence from Britain on the 31st of August 1957 and later on the 16th of September 1963, Malaysia was officially formed. Malaysia, at its present shape comprises 13 States and 3 Federal Territories.
The celebrations of Hari Merdeka and Malaysia Day are something deeply meaningful to us Malaysians wherever we are. And to this end, I am happy that this year we are able to spend it together with our brothers and sisters from the Sudanese-Malaysian People’s Friendship Association, the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) Alumni Association and Friends of Malaysia.
Despite the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic which has caused many to have postponed/cancelled the many programmes and activities lined up last year, we felt that we could celebrate this year’s National and Malaysia Day together but at a smaller scale with the necessary SOPs. It is important that some semblance of normalcy returns albeit under a different norm.
COVID-19 Challenges and ‘Malaysia Prihatin’
Ladies and gentlemen,
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought suffering, fear and death to people all over the world. Governments were forced to lockdown and take measures to curb the spread that led to other problems.
The economic recession and social disruption caused by the pandemic are devastating. Enterprises, especially those in the small and medium bracket, continue to face an existential threat and placed millions if not billions of livelihoods at risk.
Many governments were forced to prioritise their domestic markets in their recovery plan, thus, becoming more protectionist. But for Malaysia, this pandemic has taught us to be resilient, to be agile, to adapt to the new norms and the need to care for each other.
It is with this pretext, Malaysia in setting an appropriate theme for its National and Malaysia Day celebrations this year chose ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ or Malaysia Cares. A caring nation, in this unprecedented global event of the 21st century, must be the beacon of hope and salvation for its people who have had to endure hardships for more the a year and a half, often times, away from family and friends, alone.
We have, as a government, a duty and responsibility to provide support both financially and to raise the spirits of its people in these dire circumstances. In achieving this, we have introduced many care packages to help alleviate the suffering. The ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ initiative also focusses on recognising and crediting all Malaysians who stood together to face the COVID-19 pandemic particularly the front-liners, for without them, Malaysia would have succumbed to the relentless onslaught of the virus.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Government of Malaysia is fully committed in managing, overcoming and recovering from this deadly pandemic. I would like to quote from our Prime Minister, “no one is safe unless everyone is safe”. Malaysia is cognisant that we must fight this battle against a common enemy, together, as one big extended family. Along with the Malaysia Prihatin slogan, the Malaysian Government also introduced the concept of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ or Malaysian Family. We are putting aside our differences to ensure that Malaysia will not only bounce back but will thrive as the world emerges from the depths of the pandemic.
My Prime Minister has also introduced the concept of “World Family” during his address at the 76th United Nations General Assembly recently, where he called for the world to work together to address the deep-rooted challenges of inequality, political instability and global governance.
The pandemic has certainly amplified pre-existing inequalities and uncertainties. It has widened the gap between the “haves and the have-nots”. Hence, I believe that this concept of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ with addition to the theme of ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ is a good basis and could be expanded to include the relations between countries where we care for each other as how we care for our own family.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Malaysia and Sudan continue to enjoy a long, excellent history of trade and cultural relations dating back to 1973. Diplomatic relations between Sudan and Malaysia were established in 1991. Our Embassy in Khartoum was established 8 years later in 1999 after the entry of the National Petroleum Berhad, commonly known as PETRONAS to the oil sector in Sudan. Both countries have interactions in various domains of economic, political, strategic and cultural activities, and have cooperated on a sustained basis at various international forum such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
In the Education sphere, Malaysia is considered as one of the most attractive destination for Sudanese students who intend to study abroad. We have also been offering the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program (MTCP), since its inception, to Sudan as evident by the establishment of an alumni that we have present here this afternoon. While for Malaysians, as you will witness later in today’s programme, many have chosen to study the Arabic Language and Islamic Studies in various institutes of higher learning in Khartoum.
Historically, Malaysia has acted as Sudan’s gateway into South East Asia and Asia at large, while Sudan is Malaysia’s gateway into the East and Central Africa. However, this needs to be intensified as trade volume between our two countries has room to improve. Sudan has huge potential especially in the agriculture sector, emphasis to livestock and edible oils.
Malaysia welcomes the transitional period and hopes for a speedy transition to democracy. We are here to assist Sudan in every capacity. As I had mentioned, Sudan has huge potential. We have engaged many actors in Sudan to identify the areas in which Malaysia can participate. However, with the pandemic, some of these initiatives had to be put on the back burner. Once the circumstances have improve, there is a need to rapidly kick start these initiatives. I am hopeful that both the Embassy and the Friendship Association can work closely to do so effectively.
Malaysia is a close friend of Sudan and has always been respectful of Sudan’s needs. Our two peoples are very similar in approach and share a strong bond. Many Malaysians who have served in Sudan, feel at home here. Just like me, I am drawn to Sudan when we are away. This is just the way it is after being here a little more than 3 years. So it is my desire that to help Sudan accomplish its dream.
We are, of course, mindful that true to our foreign policy and principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs, Malaysia only aims to ensure that we continue to enjoy a healthy and flourishing relations that is premised on a win-win strategy so that equally we prosper. As the iconic Mahathir coined so many years ago, Malaysia believes that we can only prosper when our neighbours also prosper. There is no gain by anyone if conflict and rivalry prevails between neighbours. In today’s globalised context, all of us are getting even closer. As such, I consider Sudan a neighbour of Malaysia, so lets prosper together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Malaysia has always been an excellent trading partner of Sudan specially in Petroleum exploring and the oil industry sectors. PETRONAS was a key partner in the exploration and production of oil in Sudan since its entry in 1995. No doubt that the involvement of PETRONAS in Sudan since 2019 has been limited. However, in taking account of the depressed global oil prices, most if not all petroleum companies are re-strategizing and exploring diversification of their business models, PETRONAS included. It is hope that in the next coming years, PETRONAS will once again be active in Sudan, as other opportunities appear.
Malaysia and Sudan need to intensify and boost its trade numbers. According to Malaysia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry’s data, Sudan’s exports to Malaysia are mostly crude materials especially Arabic gum while Sudan imports palm oil, food stuff and machineries from Malaysia. One of the areas in which Malaysia can help in expanding, is Sudan’s capacity by developing its agro-based industries to add value to its raw material as highlighted by Prime Minister Hamdok last year.
Based on the Malaysian Department of Statistics report, the total trade between Malaysia and Sudan in 2020 amounted to RM 270 million, or approximately USD 64.6 million up from RM 258 million, or roughly USD 61.7 million from the previous year. We projected that the total trade in 2021, which is currently at RM 226 million, or approximately USD 54 million, to reach approximately RM 387 million or around USD 92.7 million.
These numbers, however, are still low considering how much potential both countries have. Malaysia and Sudan are blessed with a very strategic location geographically, both border important trade routes in the Red Sea and Malacca Straits. Both countries are gifted with fertile soils and flat plains that promote the agriculture sector.
Malaysia can offer electrical and electronic appliances, palm oil, and manufactured goods. Malaysian businesses have been encouraged to explore business opportunities in Sudan including edible oils like sesame oil; livestock and the leather industries to name a few. However, at the same time, we have to address some of the challenges i.e. to build confidence and assurances of doing business in Sudan. I do hope that we could quickly resolve the present issue and focus on building a comprehensive and strategic partnership for mutual benefit between our two great nations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On Malaysian investments in Sudan, PETRONAS is still relevant as they understand and have vast experience in Sudan and as you are all witness to, they are still present in Sudan by virtue of us holding these celebrations in their Multipurpose Hall.
I know that PETRONAS management has studied the potential of further investing in Sudan but as I had mentioned earlier, time is required to develop their global policies taking into account the pandemic and the impact of the auto industries movimg towards electric vehicles etc. Perhaps, one of its diversification exercises can be implemented in Sudan.
PETRONAS is very much interested in renewable energy especially in harnessing the sun’s energy. Sudan is one of the country’s in the world that has the sun shining for many long hours in a day. In this respect, PETRONAS in an initial study has determined that Sudan has huge potentials for solar energy investments as Sudan is considered one of the top three locations in the world for harnessing the sun’s power. Taking into account that solar energy generation does not necessarily involve huge infrastructures, it would be a practical solution for addressing Sudan’s current limited supply and to bring power to the outlying territories cheaply. Let us hope and pray that with Allah SWT’s blessings that we can realise all these aspirations towards ensuring prosperity flows between our two countries. Ameeeen
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to reiterate, why there is a need for Malaysians to celebrate its National Day and Malaysia Day every year. It is to remind ourselves and the younger generation of the sacrifice, tears, sweat and blood of our forefathers who had struggle and worked peacefully to gain independence so that we are able to chart our own destiny according to the shared values, beliefs and cultures of all Malaysians.
We hold close to our hearts that independence must be free from influences and dictates of external parties. We have to ensure that the people is our first priority and that whatever solutions that are formulated, everyone must benefit from it. Only then, can we move forward unhindered. The needs of the many, outweighs the need of the one.
As all of you know, Malaysia is truly Asia, the unity of its people of various races, religions and cultures, where cross-culture national unification as well as cross-cutting political ideologies, have integrated seamlessly, for the most part since independence, is the recipe of our unity and strength as a successful nation state.
Before I end my remarks, allow me to take this opportunity to wish Happy National and Malaysia Day to my fellow Malaysians and thanking all our Sudanese friends for coming together in celebrating it with us.
I pray to Allah, may the bountiful blessing of prosperity and peace pour upon our two countries, Malaysia and Sudan, always.
WABILLAHI TAUFIK WAL HIDAYAH ASSALAMUALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKATUH