Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday expressed concerns about the purported Indian restrictions on imports of palm oil, but added that he would continue to speak out about “wrong things”, The Star Online reported.
In December, India had criticised Mohamad for claiming that people were dying because of the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Indian government was “taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship”. The Ministry of External Affairs described the Malaysian prime minister’s remarks as “factually incorrect” and said Mahathir had “yet again remarked on a matter that is entirely internal to India”. In October, the Malaysian prime minister had spoken against India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.
Mohamad’s recent remarks came after Reuters reported, citing unidentified government and industry officials, that Indian palm oil importers had ostensibly stopped purchasing from suppliers in Malaysia after the Centre privately asked them to boycott the product because of the Malaysian prime minister’s criticisms.
India imports over nine million tonnes of palm oil every year from Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2019, India became Malaysia’s biggest importer of palm oil with 4.4 million tonnes of purchases, according to data by Malaysian Palm Oil Board. The move could effectively increase the country’s inventories and affect prices, which set the global standard for the oil.
“We’re concerned of course, because we sell a lot of palm oil to India, but on the other hand, we need to be frank and when something goes wrong, we need to say it,” Mohamad told reporters after an event in Kuala Lumpur. “If we allow things to go wrong and think only about the money, then a lot of things will go wrong.”
Mohamad added that the prevailing situation in India was “causing a lot of unhappiness” among its citizens and that the entire world felt that it was wrong to discriminate against others.
Meanwhile, Malaysian officials said they were trying to increase their sales to other countries, including Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines to compensate for potential losses. However, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress called on New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur to work out their differences. “We wish to implore upon both governments to use all possible diplomatic channels to resolve this issue putting aside any personal or diplomatic ego,” the union said in a statement, according to CNA.
Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in Parliament on December 11 and notified on January 10, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act sparked widespread protests for excluding Muslims.
At least 26 people died during last month’s protests against the legislation – 19 in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka. In Uttar Pradesh, the police were accused of committing atrocities, including entering people’s homes to destroy property, and detaining and torturing minors.