Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at dinner given by Malaysian Prime Minister (Dr Mahathir)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: A private dinner began at 2000.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1432
Themes: Trade, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Transport, Women

Mahathir bin MohamadPrime Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First, Prime Minister, may I thank you for that most wonderful speech, for your very warm welcome to me to Malaysia, for the marvellous ceremonies this morning and for the very friendly and successful talks we had this afternoon.

As a matter of fact, Prime Minister, I was going to call it all heart-warming, and I was just a little bit thrown when you said that there was no place for sentiment. However, I noticed that towards the end of your speech, you did say you hoped that I would take home with me fond memories. I shall. So may I still, therefore, use the word “heart-warming” for your welcome to me.

A former American President, Woodrow Wilson, once said: “You cannot be friends on any terms other than equality” and it was in that spirit that I accepted the invitation to come to Malaysia. It is a momentous occasion for me, and for Britain. As you know, I was very sorry to have to postpone my planned visit last September. We had a little trouble at home at that time. I am happy to report that it has now been successfully concluded and therefore I am able to make my visit here and shall enjoy it that much the more. But I was very grateful for your understanding then. [end p1]

In the very brief time which I have been here, I have already seen enough to know that this country is on the up and up, and I have been struck, not only by the beauty of your capital city—and it is one of the most beautiful—but also by its dynamism, and I am very glad, Prime Minister, that I shall have the opportunity to visit your home state of Kedah. I shall be seeing much more over these next two days and I look forward to it eagerly.

You paid a visit to Britain recently and may I say how very successful it was, and I think that it cemented the ties between Britain and Malaysia. I noticed you were kind enough to pay us two great compliments: first, that we have managed to contribute to the nationhood of this country—and that is a very worthy thing to do—and also, to your system of government which, of course, is one based on freedom, justice and democracy. Those things, great as they are, still need keeping fresh and up-to-date, and we were very very happy when you came to see us in Britain and I hope you were pleased with the most excellent reception that you had.

We know that your own personal contribution to the progress of Malaysia has been outstanding and not least as a tireless promoter of Malaysia worldwide.

You mentioned some things that we have shared together. May I say a few words about the qualities and interests which our two countries have in common. [end p2]

Like Britain, Malaysia has recently joined the ranks of oil and gas exporters. Like Britain Malaysia cannot be anything other than an outward-looking nation. That too, is one of our strongest characteristics.

Like you, we both agree on the advantages of the free enterprise system and the liberalisation of world trade, and I am delighted to find, Prime Minister, that you too are devotees of privatisation and reducing the role of the State.

I admire your catchphrase “Malaysia Inc.” with all the businesslike and purposeful approach which is implied.

I seem to recall your saying some years ago that no-one in Malaysia arrived on time for a meeting, but once started, there was no time limit. I was careful to arrive on time for our meeting this afternoon, because I thought that whatever you might have said in the past, it was not your style today, Prime Minister, and you would start your meeting on time; but I was very happy to find that when we had so much that was interesting to talk about, that we were not constrained by a time limit.

As always between friends, issues sometimes arise on which we do not agree, but I am glad to say that there are only very few, as our talks this afternoon showed.

The one problem which did confront us—that of air services—we have been able to resolve in a spirit of understanding of one another's viewpoint, and I am very happy indeed that that matter has been resolved, and I hope it will augur well for future relations between our two countries. [end p3]

Prime Minister, you favoured us with a “tour d'horizon” of the many things that occupy world statesmen today. We are all members of one world and a world in which the significance of distances is shrinking year by year. Each of us has to bear our share of responsibility for shaping the future, whether as an independent country—which we both are—; whether as a member of a regional group—which we both are—; or as a participant in a great international organisation—the IMF, the GATT, the World Bank, the Commonwealth and United Nations. In all of these categories, Malaysia is an exemplary partner and we admire Malaysia's vigorous contribution to world affairs, to its membership of ASEAN, particularly during your current chairmanship and, of course, our joint membership of the Commonwealth.

You referred to some of the problems confronting ASEAN and we admire the way in which ASEAN contributes to the dynamic growth of its members and their ability to speak with one voice on important international issues, as we in the European Community are also trying to do.

ASEAN has made its mark in the world in an impressive way and I hope that we shall see an even closer cooperation between ASEAN and the European Community on economic and political problems.

Britain has followed very similar policies on many international issues as Malaysia has. We share your repugnance for the brutal campaign being waged by Viet Nam in Cambodia, to which you referred, and we support your and [end p4] ASEAN's sustained efforts to achieve a peaceful solution.

Like you, we reject the murderous Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

We share your and ASEAN's interest in removing the obstacles to world trade. 60%; of Malaysia's exports to Britain last year were of manufactured goods and that is a measure of your progress in international trade; but it also a harbinger of the responsibility which you and other members of ASEAN must increasingly assume for keeping open the world trading system which has brought you and us such immense benefits; and I hope very much that Malaysia and its partners will participate fully in the new round of trade negotiations in the GATT which we hope will be held shortly.

Prime Minister, Britain and Malaysia have a lot to offer each other in trade. Many of our companies are keen to do more business with Malaysia and I shall be doing my very best to convince you of all the merits of our companies in particular—not on the basis of sentiment, just on the basis of performance—and I am sure you will find that good.

A few years ago, some of our less robust spirits shuddered when they heard you exhorting your businessmen to look East. You told me this afternoon that “look East” did not mean “buy only from the East” . You also told me you would like to see more British investment here. I was delighted to hear it. With the evidence which you provided this afternoon that British industry is really welcome here, I am sure that British business will want to invest in the [end p5] opportunities Malaysia offers and although, Prime Minister, you may sometimes look East and sometimes may travel East, if you look far enough East and travel far enough East, you always come to the West!

Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I say that I do differ with you about sentiment. I am not sure whether it is that I differ because you are Malaysian and I am British. I think it is much more fundamental than that. I think it is because you are a man and I am a woman! So maybe sentiment means a little bit more in my life than it may perhaps in yours, but I do think sentiment counts. I do think when you finish talking about common interests, mutual trade, further investments, increasing technology and progress, I do think there is a little bit of room for sentiment and I do think it exists between Britain and Malaysia, though for us Malaysia is a particular friend: an independent country which has a special place in our hearts.

We share your wish for a partnership between equals; a true partnership which benefits both sides; a partnership for the future; and if my visit can contribute to that goal, I shall be well content.

May I thank you for inviting me. May I thank you for the wonderful talks we had this afternoon; for the most interesting programme which you have arranged for my visit; for the wonderful entertainment this evening; for the two musical groups—the one traditional, the other more modern—with which you have entertained us; and with doing us the [end p6] honour of inviting us into this, your most beautiful home, the home of the Prime Minister of Malaysia; and may I ask you, Ladies and Gentlemen, therefore, to rise and drink with me the toast of the health of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. (applause)