State Banquet, Malaysia
Your Majesty The Yang di-Pertuan Agong XV, Sultan Muhammad V,
Selamat Petang dan Selamat Sejahtera.
Thank you for your kind welcome and hospitality. I am delighted and honoured to be here, and to have this opportunity to celebrate the long-standing friendship between New Zealand and Malaysia.
Malaysia is one of New Zealand’s oldest and closest partners in South East Asia. I am pleased to note that New Zealand was one of the first countries to establish formal relations with Malaysia soon after Merdeka. This year we celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations, but our close ties go back even longer.
The New Zealanders who served during the Malayan Emergency and Confrontation laid the groundwork for our close defence ties, which go back to the 1940s. Tomorrow I will have the honour of visiting the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cheras to pay respects to the New Zealanders interred there from the time of the Emergency.
I express our sincere gratitude to Malaysia for the care and respect that has been shown to the New Zealand military burials. Next year, the Malaysian and New Zealand defence forces will work closely together on Operation Te Auraki to return some of those personnel to their families.
I also acknowledge the support that alumni of the Colombo Plan have given to our bilateral relationship. Over 600 Malaysian students studied in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, and went on to build close personal ties between our two countries.
New Zealand’s first High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur was also our first head of mission of Māori descent – Tan Sri Sir Charles Bennett. Tan Sri Sir Charles established close ties with Malaysia, including strong friendships with Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman ;and Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. He was granted the title of Tan Sri by His Majesty the Agong in 1964, one of the first foreign citizens to be so honoured.
Building on Tan Sri Sir Charles’ time here, indigenous links continue to provide a special richness to our relationship. You can see points of commonality between Māori and indigenous people in East Malaysia, with Māori ancestors having travelled through Borneo around 3000 years ago on their way to the Pacific.
In the last 60 years, our two nations have built on our shared history and worked together in the spirit of partnership to become close friends. Our 60th anniversary is a chance to reflect on what we have achieved together and to look forward to a vibrant partnership in the future.
The strong relationship we enjoy today is evidenced by the number of high-level visits between our two nations. Four New Zealand Ministers have visited Malaysia this year, and New Zealand hosted Minister of Youth and Sports, Brigadier General Khairy Jamaluddin as a Prime Minister’s Fellow for ASEAN in April. It was an honour to host the visit of the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, to New Zealand and to Scott Base, Antarctica, in November 2011.
We maintain a close and evolving defence and security relationship through the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and today we work together on non-traditional security issues too, including counter terrorism and maritime security.
We have built on the rich legacy of the Colombo Plan, and today around 2,000 Malaysian students study in New Zealand each year. During my visit, I will have the honour of meeting a number of alumni from New Zealand universities, and of visiting KYS Business School, an institution with close links to NewZealand, which was founded by New Zealand alumnus Tan Sri Halim Saad.
New Zealand’s open landscapes draw increasing numbers of Malaysian visitors – over 55,000 in the last year. Malaysia remains a popular destination for New Zealanders as they make their way into Asia and beyond. And over 6,000 Malaysians now call New Zealand home.
Trade and economic links are a growing part of the contemporary relationship. Malaysia is one of our top ten trading partners. New Zealand and Malaysia share a culture of innovation, creativity, and openness, which makes us ideal partners in growing business ties.
There are also plenty of opportunities for further cooperation in the education, forestry, health, biotechnology and agri-technology sectors.
The strength of our relationship extends to regional and international cooperation. New Zealand is one of ASEAN’s oldest dialogue partners, and of course our countries engage regularly at the annual ASEAN Plus meetings.New Zealand and Malaysia often share similar views on regional and international issues, and we worked closely together on the UN Security Council in 2015 and 2016. We look forward to continuing close cooperation with Malaysia in the South East Asian region and beyond.
It is an honour to visit Malaysia, and to play a part in deepening the relationship as we look towards the future. The rich past and present give us a future together that is full of opportunity and promise. Our two countries have already enjoyed over 60 years of friendship, and I look forward to seeing our strong friendship flourish in the years to come.
Your Majesty, thank you once again for your warm and generous hospitality. And I do hope that I will have the honour to reciprocate and host Your Majesty in NewZealand.