PM Concerned over Indian Ban on Palm Oil but Won’t Be Silenced

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad is concerned over India’s move to ban imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia but said it would not stop him from speaking out against policies with which he disagreed.

The prime minister today defended his criticism of certain policies by New Delhi, saying it was necessary to speak out against wrongdoing.

“We are concerned about it (India’s ban on refined palm oil) because we sell a lot of palm oil to India, but on the other hand, we need to be frank and say when something goes wrong.

FMT

“If you allow things to go wrong and only think about the money involved, then I think a lot of wrong things would be done by us and by others,” Dr Mahathir said.

Dr Mahathir was responding to queries over India’s reported move to stop buying Malaysian palm oil in retaliation for his criticism of the country.

Nevertheless, he said that a solution to the issue needs to be found, as worries over the impact of the ban on the local palm oil industry mount.

“That is something we have to do, which is to find a solution.

“But the fact is that what happens in India today is causing more problems and unhappiness among the people there,” he said, adding that “the whole world feels that it is wrong to discriminate against anybody there.”

India earlier this month told its refiners to stop importing refined palm oil from Malaysia.

The move follows Dr Mahathir’s criticism last year of New Delhi’s move to revoke Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, as well as introduction of a citizenship law that is seen as anti-Muslim.

New Delhi hit out at Dr Mahathir’s description of Jammu and Kashmir as having been “invaded and occupied” by India while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.

On India’s new citizenship law, he said that it was discriminatory.

He said, however, he would find a bilateral solution to resolve the current ban on refined palm oil.

India was the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil in 2018, importing 2.5 million tonnes, followed by China, which bought 1.86 million tonnes.

A Reuters exclusive news report yesterday cited anonymous sources claiming Indian palm oil importers have effectively stopped all purchases from Malaysia after New Delhi government officials privately issued a boycott.

However, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok refuted the report on Monday.