Malaysia: Biggest investor but ignored by Sri Lankan media – Envoy

By NNN-Bernama

Colombo : Malaysia has been Sri Lanka's biggest investor for two years in a row, ousting Japan and many other western nations since 2005 but is largely ignored by the Sri Lankan media, lamented departing Malaysian envoy here.

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Many more Malaysian investors are also eyeing Sri Lanka as an investor base but unfortunately the media doesn't highlight the fact that Malaysia is the biggest investor in Sri Lanka.

"Often the focus is on the bigger countries although we have been the biggest, two years in a row," noted High Commissioner Nazirah Hussain at a ceremony at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC).

Nazirah leaves next week after a three-year stint which saw the East Asian country which in her words "is a developing nation just like Sri Lanka", ousting other high fliers from the biggest investor status here.

Much of that credit goes to "Dialog Telekom", part of Malaysia's Telekom group, which represents almost half of Malaysian investments in Sri Lanka of US$ 600 million between 2004-2006. Dialog is the biggest investor in Colombo's stock market and Sri Lanka's most profitable listed company.

Among the top five investors with Malaysia are Singapore, the United Kingdom and India.

The high commissioner, who implied Malaysia's success in Sri Lanka is being overshadowed in the media by the exploits of countries from the west like the United States and UK, made these comments at a ceremony to fete her by the Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council which comes under the aegis of the CCC.

Nazirah's tenure has been the most successful for any Malaysian envoy in which many Malaysian companies have invested in Sri Lanka while many more are considering investments.

Some of the main new highways including the crucial Colombo-Kandy (in the central hills) toll road is being undertaken by Malaysian companies.

Some months back, she also helped launch a Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council in Kandy, the first time ever a country-connected business council was set up outside Colombo.

She also made a salient point about donor aid, saying: "I don't like the word donor. I prefer sharing or partnership. We work in partnership with our neighbours. We like to share; not make conditions. We want our neighbours to prosper as we prosper," she said.

Sri Lanka is among many countries in South Asia that depends on aid from the West that come with strings attached. In January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) closed its office in Colombo, with the official explanation being it doesn't have any more programmes in the country.

Unofficially, however, the decision was based on government policy not to bow to stringent IMF conditions in return for structural adjustment financial assistance or budgetary relief.

CCC chairman Mahen Dayananda, reflecting on the achievements of the outgoing Malaysian envoy who was described by many others as humble, simple and very accessible, said Nazirah has been a truly inspiring diplomat not only to the chamber but the country at large.

"You have made a deep impression on the business community in Sri Lanka with your work," he said. Nazirah, asked by journalists about the high and low points during her tenure, said there were many positives.

"Not many low points but maybe poverty. I was moved by the poverty," she said.

In fact, rather than giving her an expensive send-off ceremony and expensive gift, the Sri Lanka-Malaysia Business Council, at her request, donated sports equipment to a poor school in southern Colombo.