MBABANE (Swaziland): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is arriving here today to attend the Global 2003 Smart Partnership International Dialogue.
The event will be held at the Royal Swazi Sun hotel in Ezulwini, which is also known as “Heavenly Place” in Siswati, Swaziland's national language.
Thirty-five-year-old King Mswati III, who has 10 wives, has ruled the country since he ascended the throne at the age of 18 in 1986.
His late father King Sobhuza II was the world’s longest-serving monarch in modern times.
While the dialogue will be a historic occasion for Swaziland, which gained independence in 1968, it will also be the last time Dr Mahathir will attend it as a head of government.
His attendance at Global 2003 will cap the pivotal role he has played since 1995 to forge smart partnership dialogues among southern African countries.
Joining him will be 14 state and government heads, including Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who will attend the event for the first time.
Others include Botswana's President Festus Mogae, Gambia's President Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, Ghana's President John Kufuor, Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili, Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi, Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano and Namibia's President Sam Nujoma.
Dr Mahathir is accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, Rural Development Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid and a 28-member business delegation.
The Prime Minister’s special representative Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman, who is also chairman of the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management, which is the joint convenor of Global 2003, told Malaysian journalists that the three issues that would dominate the dialogue were global security, genetically modified food and the benefits of k-economy.
Dr Omar said Global 2003 was a significant event for Swaziland's people as only a month ago some local non-governmental organisations protested against the hosting of the event.
However, the people were convinced of the dialogue's benefits after a discussion with King Mswati III and some villagers even offered goats, chickens and cattle to ensure its success, he said.
Together with leaders of the 16 participating countries who started arriving today, about 600 participants from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean and South-East Asia are expected to attend.
The theme of the dialogue is “Towards a Smarter Globe: Enhancing Identity and Progress for Development through Smart Partnership.”