Christmas is around the corner and Danish Ambassador Lasse Reimann,who has enjoyed the past six Yuletides here, will be greatly missed this time, writes PAUL GABRIEL.
IT’S the time of the year when Western diplomats based here are excitedly preparing to head for home to spend their festive holidays with family and friends.
But Lasse Reimann, one of Europe’s longest serving ambassadors in Malaysia, has been the exception.
Since being posted here in 1997 (which makes him the second most senior head of mission in Kuala Lumpur), this nature lover has packed his bags each Christmas – only to head to his favourite retreat, Cameron Highlands.
This year, the glory of the highlands would have beckoned yet again if not for the Danish Foreign Service dispatch on his reassignment to Iceland.
Reimann, who has been up the hill resort 20 times in all, says he will truly miss being on higher ground this Christmas. (For the record, Denmark is one of the flattest countries in Europe, with an average altitude of only 35m above sea level.)
“I have spent all my annual holidays in Malaysia and that was the right thing to do,” stresses the 61-year-old envoy in a farewell interview at the Royal Danish Embassy at Wisma Denmark, Kuala Lumpur.
“Our two children would always come and join us for the holidays up at the Federal Bungalow in Cameron Highlands.”
Reimann's trips to Cameron Highlands have not just been for leisure, however. He has been solidly supporting environmental protection activities and raising these concerns on many of his travels to the nature retreat and to other scenic spots around the country.
During a visit to Cameron Highlands in August, Reimann had praised the Society of Regional Environmental Awareness of Camerons Highlands (Reach) as a model organisation that influenced development in an environmentally sound way.
“Reach is a valid player in efforts to reach sustainable solutions in the fragile environment of Cameron Highlands,” he had said.
During Prince Henrik’s tour of exotic locations in Malaysia in March 2002, Reimann kept pace with the energetic prince consort and accompanied the royal guest through various conservation spots, such as the Likas Bird Sanctuary, Kinabatangan Floodplain, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
The prince and the ambassador also participated in a home-stay programme in Ulu Padas near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.
“The prince was game enough to eat the wild fruits, and food cooked by the locals,” recalls Reimann.
Known for his well-phrased thoughts, the envoy is not one to provide mere “lip service”.
In July, he announced a three-year RM1.1mil grant to both Reach and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia from the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) for water resource, solid waste and land use management projects.
Reimann has also been at the forefront of the continuing collaboration between the Danish and Malaysian governments on environmental issues such as energy, waste management and biodiversity.
Malaysia receives about RM30mil annually from Denmark, a former agricultural country that is now modern and globalised, under the Malaysian-Danish Environmental Co-operation Programme for energy efficiency and renewable projects.
(Denmark, which also includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland, is the only country in the world to donate 1% of its gross national income to international development assistance, and almost half the Danish assistance is provided via international organisations.)
Reimann explains his country’s ties with Malaysia with regard to development assistance.
“Following the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, Denmark committed itself to supporting environmental efforts, including countries well above the level of qualifying for development aid. Malaysia was among the countries that we wanted to work with. We are not doing this (providing assistance) here to achieve any specific Danish goal,” he says.
“We consider this effort as a partnership between Denmark and Malaysia. I am very pleased that Malaysia has now taken more ownership of environmental issues such as energy efficiency, renewable waste management and environmental planning.”
Reimann, who was the Danish Consul-General in Los Angeles between 1991 and 1997, delves into another fresh area of impending co-operation with Malaysia – the Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM.
Under the programme, developed countries like Denmark would assist developing nations to achieve specific environmental goals.
“This effort will involve the private sector here and we already have an understanding with your Government. We are looking at several companies with specific projects in mind,” he says.
Reimann also speaks with pride on his country’s involvement in the Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s “LEO” (Low Energy Office) building in Putrajaya, which will open next year.
“It will be an energy efficient building with state-of-the-art features,” he says.
“The building will be an important demonstration of how a modern office building can conserve energy. But it is not named after the minister (Datuk Amar Leo Moggie),” he adds with a laugh.
On his next posting, the ambassador reveals that he had named Iceland as his first choice.
“Iceland is a wonderful country. My wife and I have always wanted to explore its beauty.”
As they pack up to leave, one thing’s for sure. The Reimanns have certainly left their footprints in Malaysia.
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