DUBAI: Australia’s plans to create a surveillance zone reaching into Indonesian waters can cause controversy and tension in the region because no country liked other countries to infringe on its sovereignty, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“Countries will not want any form of action or initiative from any country near or far that would be seen as violating their sovereignty,” said the Prime Minister during a press conference with the local media yesterday.
Abdullah, who is in the United Arab Emirates on a six-day visit, was commenting on Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s plans that ships destined for Australia be possibly intercepted once inside a 1,000 nautical mile security net stretching as far as New Zealand and beyond Indonesia.
To a question whether Asean countries should protest the move, Abdullah said as a matter of principle they should, adding that there was no need to wait for a consensus in the grouping before raising objections.
He believed Indonesia too would react uneasily to Australia’s plans.
On Thursday, Abdullah visited a Dubai aluminium plant at the Jebel Ali free zone.
At yesterday’s press conference, in reply to a question, he said this had nothing to do with an earlier proposal from Dubai on the Bakun project.
A Dubai company, GIIG Capital Sdn controlled by United Arab Emirates’s Mohammed AlAbbar and Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary, had in May made a proposal to buy power from the Bakun Dam to pave way for a US$2bil (RM7.6bil) aluminium smelter.
But the deal collapsed when GIIG failed to meet some conditions. Syed Mokhtar was among the entourage who visited the Dubai aluminium plant with Abdullah on Thursday.
Abdullah said he was interested in finding out how an aluminium plant operated and the world’s demand and supply.
“Aluminium is a much sought after product in the world especially in China,” he added.
On whether he had received any other proposal from Dubai or other parties to continue with the aluminium smelter, Abdullah said there were still some interested parties.
“We hear that there are some parties who want to present their proposals,” he said but declined to name them.
On Thursday, Abdullah also visited the Internet City and Media City. He was briefed by Ahmad Bin Byat, the director-general of the Dubai Technology and Media Zone Authority.
Big media organisations like Reuters, CNBC, CNN, MBC have moved to the adjacent Media City and now made the city their hub for the Middle East.
“We try to be fiercely independent. We have created the Freedom of Expression Act, which allows reporters to write whatever they want.
“We know bringing reporters in is a double-edged sword because in their free time, they will write about Dubai. If it is positive, they will write, if it is negative, they will also write,” Ahmad said.
But, he said, Dubai had gained plenty of exposure this way.
At yesterday’s press conference, Abdullah was asked if there were plans to liberalise the laws governing the media in Malaysia to allow greater freedom.
The Prime Minister said there were no plans to make Malaysia a regional media hub but the international media was free to set up base in the country and report their views without censorship.
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