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Australia Makes Up With Malaysia

July 24, 1991 GMT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ After years of bitterness over drug trafficking executions and a scandalous soap opera that insulted Malaysian officialdom, Australia and Malaysia have finally decided to patch up relations.

″I believe the differences are behind us,″ Foreign Minister Gareth Evans of Australia said Tuesday after meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

″All we are being asked to do is to demonstrate some sensitivity to the feelings of others,″ he said.

Malaysia’s International Trade Minister, Rafidah Aziz, whom he met separately, said there had been a ″genuine move by Australia to mend fences″.

Trouble began in 1986 when Malaysia hanged two Australian drug traffickers. Hawke called it a ″barbaric act.″

Malaysian officials strongly criticized the statement.

An Australian film ″Slow Boat to Surabaya″ depicted Malays as a lazy people, Malaysian officials claimed.

Then Australians made a TV series ″Embassy″ based in the fictional country of Ragaan, which was taken as a thinly veiled representation of Malaysia.

Malaysian officials were insulted because Ragaan was depicted as being ruled by a dictator. They asked Australia to take the series off the air.

Australia replied that it was a private matter and the government could not interfere.

Malaysia also strongly criticized Australian environmentalists who demonstrated before Malaysian missions demanding an end to logging of rain forests. One demonstration in Canberra lasted more than 100 days.

In unwritten orders, Malaysian officials were asked not to go to Australia on official visits.

Government officials were asked to stay away from dinners and receptions in the Australian Embassy and other Australian official houses in Malaysia.

Evans admitted that trade, economic, cultural and other ties had suffered.

The Australian foreign minister said Australia had not apologized but had explained matters to Malaysia.

He said he acknowledged to Mahathir that Australia was at fault and that was what had led to the strained relations.

Evans was attending talks between six noncommunist Southeast Asian and seven developed nations.