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US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott responded to
criticisms levelled against US VIce-President Al Gore for
supporting Malayisa's reformation movement during the Apec
meeting. Below are excerpts of the ambassadors comments
during an interview with The Star on Thursday

                   Q: We have seen how Gore's remarks have elicited such a tremendous
                   response from Malaysian leaders and the people. Did he realise --
                   does he now realise, does the US government realise -- what he has
                   done?

                   A: I think he knew that it would produce a response. But I also know
                   that when he was asked about it the next day, he said: "I'd carry the
                   message of democracy anywhere I go. Those values are important to
                   us."

                   People should look at the section of his speech on democracy.
                   Everyone is focusing on one sentence.

                   What he said was that as we move into the next century, as we try to
                   promote more economic growth, democracy and respect for the rights
                   of people, freedom of information and expression are essential.

                   That was his overall message and I hope that message does not get lost
                   because people are looking at one particular sentence. Let's think
                   about the overall message.

                   Q: Why did he choose Apec to make his remarks? The other Apec
                   leaders have said it wasn't the forum to bring in other, non-trade issues.

                   A: I'm just speculating because I didn't ask him personally. But I think it
                   was an opportunity to do so. I think there was a feeling that it would be
                   impossible for him to come to Malaysia and not say something.

                   The arrest of Anwar and his subsequent beating has provoked
                   worldwide interest, not just in the US. The world has been following
                   this.

                   I think people forget -- and I'm speaking personally about Anwar -- he
                   is a very well-known individual. He is known personally to leaders
                   throughout the world.

                   Sometimes it's easy to forget that when this happens to an individual
                   that you know personally who has been a friend of yours, and Al Gore
                   has met Anwar, as have many leaders around the world, you become
                   very concerned about them as individuals.

                   In the end, we may read about people like this in newspapers and we
                   may forget they are real, live human beings.

                   As someone who knows Anwar, as his counterpart, as the second
                   person in the government, I think Gore felt that he wanted to say
                   something and I think he felt he needed to say something and this was
                   the opportunity.

                   Q: Gore used slogans -- doi moi, people's power, reformasi -- in his
                   speech.

                   Wasn't he comparing Malaysia to Indonesia, the Philippines under
                   Ferdinand Marcos? Doesn't the US consider Malaysia a democratic
                   country? We practise the principles of democracy, and we have
                   elections.

                   A: We all choose different words. I don't know why he chose those
                   particular words. But again, I would say let's think about Gore's
                   message, which was democracy.

                   Is Malaysia a democracy? Yes, it is. But how do you define a
                   democracy?

                   We in the US call ourselves a democracy. In 1776, we said all men are
                   created equal. As time passed we have expanded our definition on
                   what it means to be equal.

                   One Malaysian newspaper said this morning the voting rate in Malaysia
                   is higher than in the US, therefore Malaysia is a more representative
                   democracy.

                   This is a misunderstanding of what democracy is all about. Elections
                   and free elections are an essential component of democracy. But
                   elections are not by themselves democracy.

                   Q: Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi issued a
                   strong statement, warning that should Gore's remarks cause a "rupture
                   in the harmony" of Malaysian society, the US would have to bear the
                   consequences.

                   A: I was shocked by that statement ... Al Gore, no American leader,
                   no responsible person, would ever incite anyone to violence.

                   I was not happy the other night when I was coming in from the airport
                   with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and we had to divert her
                   motorcade because there were motorcycles on fire and a
                   demonstration. That is not the way for people to achieve their political
                   goals.

                   But at the same time you have to allow people the right of expression
                   ... if you deny people every avenue or opportunity to freely and
                   peacefully express their views, then obviously there will be some
                   people who may choose to use other means to express their frustration
                   or anger. That is unfortunate. But the solution is not to criticise
                   democracy, but to allow people to express their views freely and
                   peacefully.

                   Q: You earlier quoted Gore as saying he was proud to carry the
                   message of democracy wherever and anywhere he goes. Isn't this
                   insensitive of the US, and wouldn't this reinforce the impression that the
                   US is a big bully?

                   A: Look at it this way. For example, this government, this Prime
                   Minister was very vocal when people were being killed in Bosnia. But
                   no one said that that was interference in the internal affairs of Bosnia.
                   What the Prime Minister did was right and correct.

                   There are times if you believe personally in a value, something that is
                   very important to you, you'd express your views.

                   We as a nation believe that political freedom, economic freedom and
                   religious freedom are very important and I'm not embarrassed to add
                   that I do not find democracy disgusting, to use someone else's phrase.
                   There is nothing disgusting about freedom of speech.

                   Q: Malaysia recently introduced capital and currency controls. These
                   have not gone down well with people outside who say this is not the
                   way to go. But at the same time there are investors already here,
                   Americans included, who are coping.

                   Do US investors who may be interested in coming here know the
                   reality of the situation here?

                   A: For companies already here, a fixed exchange rate is wonderful for
                   business planning as it does not have the fluctuations.

                   That's why US and other foreign companies are happy because they
                   know exactly what it's going to cost them to do business in Malaysia.

                   It's the companies outside that are wondering what this means.

                   A fixed exchange rate does not necessarily reflect the true value of the
                   money because it's not the result of an agreement between the buyer
                   and seller. When you say you will only sell ringgit at 3.80 per US
                   dollar, the buyer will wonder whether he is paying too much or too
                   little.

                   Q: Where does the US-Malaysia relationship go from here?

                   A: I have said before that there has always been a gap between the
                   rhetoric of the relationship and the reality. And we have moments like
                   this during the three years I've been here.

                   When the rhetoric becomes strong, I think it's time for everyone to take
                   a deep breath and calm down. Let's not shout back and forth. Let's
                   have an open discussion as friends.

                   Because the reality is that we are Malaysia's largest trading partner and
                   largest investor.

                   We are the biggest source of foreign technology. We have 14,000
                   Malaysian students in the US. We have to draw a distinction between
                   the rhetoric and the reality. When the rhetoric gets explosive, it's time
                   for responsibility; let's calm down and have a friendly and open
                   discussion.