This week it was my pleasure to host the first British Prime Minister to come to Malaysia in almost 20 years. The visit followed on from my official trip to the UK last summer where we discussed ways of working together more closely in meeting up to our shared challenges and opportunities.
I particularly enjoyed touring the Malaysian campus of Nottingham University, where I spoke alongside Mr Cameron at a Global Movement of Moderates event. He said he was delighted to visit the campus of my alma mater and speak in support of the GMM, and so was I – especially with so many international students in attendance.
Mr Cameron has spoken memorably about “muscular liberalism” – and I agree with him that being moderate is not the same as being a wimp! It is for all of us as moderates, Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists alike, to demonstrate this muscularity and use our unity and strength to defeat intolerance and stay true to the path of moderation.
That is our common path – a path that, here in Malaysia, has seen the colonial-era Internal Security Act replaced with new civil liberties and freedoms, and that in the UK heralded the end of decades of conflict and strife in Northern Ireland. Those are also our common values – values, it must be said, that were forged in Britain’s world class education system.
But if Britain and Malaysia are united in our values, we are equally united in our commitment to increasing prosperity, raising living standards and building open, outward-facing economies. Ever since the East India Company opened its first base in the region in Penang more than 200 years ago, Malaysia’s trade links with the UK have been strong – and I’m confident that they will get much stronger after our renewed commitment this week.
Economically, culturally, politically, our bilateral relationship has not only stood the test of time, it has flourished down the years – from the days of my father to the place where, more than 50 years later, we find ourselves today. We should celebrate these historic ties, both big and small, between our nations and to renew them for our times.