KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 (Bernama) — There were suggestions initially for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to postpone his visit to Japan given fears of a radiation fallout after the country’s nuclear meltdown in the north-east.
Almost everyday, minor tremors could be felt, and for visitors originating from non earthquake-prone countries or not within the “ring of fire” such as Malaysia, this can be intimidating.
Scientists say the Tohoku 9.0 magnitude earthquake in north-eastern Japan, the fourth largest ever recorded, has increased quake risks elsewhere including, in particular, the Tokyo area and Mt Fuji.
The massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in north-eastern Japan and caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
Even on the day Najib was in Tokyo, a fire broke out at one of the nuclear plants at the company but it was quickly doused.
With such dangers lurking, it would have been easy to cancel, but the Prime Minister was keen to continue with the working visit given the significance Malaysia attaches to long-standing ties with Tokyo.
More importantly, he wanted to personally extend Kuala Lumpur’s support to the people of Japan especially for the 15,000 killed and thousands more affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11.
In a speech to more than a thousand participants at the 17th Nikkei International Conference last Thursday morning on May 26, he went beyond economics to devote a major portion of his remarks in resonating Malaysia’s solidarity with Japan.
“I offer my words this morning as a tribute to all those who are no longer with us – may their souls rest in peace,” he said in what participants described was almost a moving eulogy.
He also paid tribute to the indomitable human spirit displayed by the Japanese in meeting with the crisis with honour, discipline and fortitude.
Despite their grief, the Japanese participants responded by giving Najib an extended ovation after his speech and as he left the Fuji room of the Imperial Hotel.
Najib’s message is timely and significant, that is, for Asean and Asia to join hands with a fellow member of the regional community of nations and help them in their hour of need.
His call for Asian nations and in particular South-East Asia to hasten regional integration is also crucial as it would position them well in the face of adversity.
Japan reportedly needs US$309 billion for rebuilding and reconstruction, making it the world’s most expensive natural disaster.
Malaysia’s stability, infrastructure and strategic location as an area protected from the ring of fire means it is in turn well-placed to act as a base for those companies that are working to restore Japan.
Japan’s vehicle production plunged in April because supplier plants were destroyed by the March 11 disaster and the strong yen is not helping exports either.
Perhaps, it is timely for Japanese firms, both auto-based or otherwise, to relocate or expand operations in Malaysia to cut costs as well as to ensure production certainty by locating away from the ring of fire.
Against this backdrop, the Asean-Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting, which Malaysia would host in July, is important for Japanese firms to discuss options for relocating.
On its part, Malaysia is ready to help, even to tailor-make investment incentives, as a sincere gesture, to help Japanese firms.
After all, Japan has featured among top ranked investors in Malaysia since the 70’s and stepping up the tempo in increasing Japanese investments here would be a natural progression in their operations.
Najib’s meetings with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto as well as officials of the Japan-Malaysia Economic Association, including firms like Hitachi, Marubeni Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and Toshiba, also yielded substantial results.
The Prime Minister announced that Japanese firms will invest about RM9 billion in Malaysia between now and 2015.
This clearly reflects Japan’s faith in Malaysia as a top-notch investment destination, thanks largely to efforts by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) to woo much-needed investments.
A highlight of the good news is the investments to the tune of RM3.7 billion by Tokuyama Corporation at its plant in Bintulu to manufacture polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells and electronic parts.
Matsumoto has indicated that Japanese firms are keen on investment opportunities in infrastructure projects arising from the Economic Transformation Plan, particularly, the Mass Rapid Transit system.
Najib’s visit, though brief, was successful, not only in ensuring bilateral trade and investment linkages are not adversely affected by the March 11 disaster, but to show Japan that Malaysia cares and that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”
Source : Bernama