Malaysia’s PM to talk on Covid-19 vaccination, travel bubble, palm oil anti-discrimination in Jakarta

This boosts Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ahead of May 18's parliamentary sitting. PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3, 2021, Malay Mail. Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be flying to Jakarta, Indonesia tomorrow for a short official visit, with the intention of discussing several “important matters” including plans for a future Malaysia-Indonesia travel bubble and to learn from the neighbouring nation on Covid-19 vaccination, Malay Mail reported.

In a statement today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this will be Muhyiddin’s first official visit as prime minister since he assumed the office in March 2020.

When explaining why Muhyiddin would be making the brief official visit from February 4 to February 5 to Indonesia, Wisma Putra noted that Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo had extended a special invitation to Muhyiddin to make an official visit to Indonesia following the latter’s appointment as prime minister.

Wisma Putra said Malaysia had accepted Indonesia’s invitation in the “spirit of close friendship and decades of established strong bilateral relations”.

“There are several matters involving the interests of both countries which require further discussion and mutual understanding including important issues such as economic cooperation, regional and bilateral security as well as joint efforts in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Thus, leaders of both countries have agreed to have a face-to-face meeting,” it added.

“Indonesia has always been the first destination for an official visit by the Malaysian Prime Minister after assuming office, which is also the established norm that is practised by the President of Indonesia,” it also said.

Malaysia-Indonesia travel bubble plans and more

As for the significance of Muhyiddin’s official visit for both Malaysia and Indonesia, Wisma Putra said government leaders of the two countries are expected to discuss efforts to address common challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and a few important matters.

These include joint efforts by the two countries as the world’s largest palm oil exporters to fight international discrimination against palm oil produced by Indonesia and Malaysia, with the continuity of the palm oil sector critical for both economies and will be to the benefit of over 600,000 palm oil smallholders in Malaysia.

Also on the list to be discussed is the strengthening of cooperation in environmental protection especially in addressing the issue of transboundary haze, and to increase joint efforts in trade and investment including the potential for Malaysian businesses to be involved in Indonesia’s plan to relocate its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan and with such potential Malaysian involvement expected to help regional economic recovery efforts especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two countries are also expected to “intensify negotiations” on a travel bubble or Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) scheme for official and business travel between both countries.

“It is important to highlight that this negotiation will deliberate on SOP that can be agreed upon by both countries. The RGL scheme will not be implemented immediately.

“The decision to implement the RGL depends on the Covid-19 status in both countries at the time and also subject to the approval of the relevant health authorities of both countries,” Wisma Putra said.

The fifth item on the list is for Malaysia to “acquire best practices in the use of Covid-19 vaccines, especially since Indonesia has begun its vaccination rollout programme on its citizens”, with the knowledge-sharing initiative to benefit Malaysia as it starts its own Covid-19 vaccination programme in the near future.

Visit within 24 hours and other SOPs

Wisma Putra said Muhyiddin’s official visit to Indonesia will be brief, with Indonesia making arrangements to accommodate this request to keep the visit short.

“Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia and Indonesia, YAB Prime Minister has instructed for the duration of the official visit to be less than 24 hours,” it said in the same statement.

The arrangements made include Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo personally instructing for the visit’s official venue to be at Istana Merdeka in Jakarta instead of Istana Bogor in Bogor, West Java, and the shortening of programmes for the official visit.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and a small delegation of senior officers from his ministry will hold a discussion with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi before the start of Muhyiddin’s official visit.

According to Wisma Putra, Muhyiddin and Widodo will meet on Friday morning before performing Friday prayers together that afternoon at a mosque in the Istana Merdeka complex, before going to an official luncheon hosted by Widodo.

“After the luncheon, YAB Prime Minister and the Malaysian delegation will return to Malaysia and undergo mandatory quarantine as prescribed by the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MoH),” Wisma Putra said, before listing a detailed list of standard operating procedures to be followed for the official visit.

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