News On Malaysia












ISNIN  Mei 3  1999

Estrada unrepentant over meeting Azizah

South China Morning Post
Philippine President Joseph Estrada said yesterday he had personally written to jailed former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, and that Malaysia had no reason to be angry over his meeting Anwar's wife.

But Kuala Lumpur dismissed Mr Estrada's statement that he had held a "private and personal" meeting with the wife of a friend and questioned whether Manila valued their relations.

Mr Estrada said Wan Azizah Ismail gave him a letter from Anwar when he met her late on Thursday. The President said he wrote back but declined to divulge the contents of the letters, saying they were personal.

Asked whether he was worried that his meeting with Dr Azizah would further incense Malaysia, Mr Estrada said: "I don't believe so because it's purely private and personal."

Kuala Lumpur has accused Manila of meddling in Malaysia's domestic politics by allowing her visit and said it would view dimly any country that gave her room to attack Malaysia.

Asked about Mr Estrada's remarks, a spokesman for the Malaysian Embassy in Manila said: "There is no such thing as a private meeting when it concerns the head of state and Government of the Philippines and the head of an opposition party in Malaysia."

An embassy spokesman said it was too early to speculate whether Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad would attend the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila in November.

"It's very premature to say anything about Prime Minister Mahathir's attendance or non-attendance. Let's see what happens here in the Philippines. We'll see if good relations are valued," he said.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said in Hanoi yesterday that the Philippine Government had been asked not to interfere with the jailing of Anwar by giving too warm a welcome to his wife.

"We do not interfere in the domestic problems of others, and we hope others will do the same," Mr Hamid said.

"We have expressed this to the Government of the Philippines."

Malaysia and the Philippines are co-founders of Asean, which also groups Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma, and which follows a strict policy of not interfering in members' domestic affairs.

Dr Azizah heads the Parti Keadilan Nasional, or National Justice Party, which is seeking to form a coalition with other opposition groups and challenge Dr Mahathir's ruling coalition in the upcoming general election.

She left for Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Presidential guards prevented the media from getting near her at the airport.

Her husband was deputy prime minister, finance minister and Dr Mahathir's heir-apparent until his arrest in September.

He was convicted last month on charges of corruption and was jailed for six years.

Mr Estrada, who took office in June last year, has previously provoked Malaysia on the issue.

In October, the film actor-turned-President publicly supported Anwar and urged him to fight on after his arrest by Malaysian police.

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