Sunday, February 23

Hay: Future bright for UK-Malaysia relations

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Charles Hay

KUCHING: The ties between the United Kingdom and Malaysia are progressing well, and the future of the relationship between the two countries is bright, British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Charles Hay said.

He said that the link between the two countries run deep, while noting that Sarawak and the UK have similar deep links.

“What struck me is the ambition that people here (in Sarawak) have for Sarawak and the energy they have, and there has been a lot of talk about big infrastructure projects to be implemented in the state such as the Pan Borneo Highway construction and proposed LRT projects,” Hay told The Borneo Post yesterday in an exclusive interview at Pullman Hotel here.

Hay is in Kuching for a few days to visit Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and other agencies such as Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the Ministry of Transport, to look at existing commercial relationships between the UK and Sarawak as well as to look at future opportunities for collaboration in various areas of development.

He highlighted education and trade as the core of the relationship between the UK and Malaysia, citing the education links between the two countries as the “building block” of the relationship.

“There are currently 19,000 Malaysian students studying in the UK and another 80,000 individuals studying for a UK qualification in Malaysia. In addition, the UK government provides the Chevening Scholarship for Malaysian students to pursue their post-graduate degree in the UK. I would say, however, that I feel that not enough British nationals know about Malaysia, so there are relatively fewer British nationals coming to study in Malaysia. But yes, the bedrock of this education relationship is very important for the relationship between the UK and Malaysia,” he said, adding that more Sarawakians should try to apply for the Chevening Scholarship.

The High Commissioner also said that the commercial and trade aspect of the two countries’ relationship was strong, as Malaysia was the second largest market within the Asean region with a trading relationship worth almost GBP5 billion.

“I think we can do more, and I think we can do better, but Malaysia is a very attractive market for British companies. Not only that, the UK’s major banks, HSBC and Standard Chartered, have invested in East Malaysia and of course we have our oil and gas majors Shell and BP both in upstream and downstream. There are many opportunities to further strengthen the trade and investment relationship, and we believe there is excellent scope in education, technology, healthcare and infrastructure development in particular,” he said.

Hay also noted that he was excited to work together with Malaysia on the climate change agenda.

“The need to take concerted global action with climate change is more important than ever. We need to address the man-made climate change and de-carbonisation of our economies, and I actually think Sarawak is very interesting from this perspective because there is a huge amount of hydro power, so in terms of renewables, Sarawak is actually doing much better than the rest of Malaysia.

“The abundance of primary rainforests in Sarawak and Sabah as well is key in our fight against climate change, since the rainforests’ role of trapping and storing carbon is extremely important. We are also looking at reforestation efforts, particularly areas that have been degraded from logging or turned into agricultural purposes.”

Hay, who is the former British ambassador to South Korea, replaced Vicki Treadell as the new British High Commissioner to Malaysia in April 2019. He had previously had a stint in Johor for a month studying Bahasa Melayu.