NST Leader: Of palm oil and other crude things

India had issued a notification on Jan 8 placing imports of “refined bleached deodorised palm oil” under its “restricted” list. Thanks to media here and elsewhere, alarmists are on the rise. NSTPJanuary 15, 2020 @ 12:00am

INDIA had issued a notification on Jan 8 placing imports of “refined bleached deodorised palm oil” under its “restricted” list. Thanks to media here and elsewhere, alarmists are on the rise.

They say India has imposed a “boycott” on Malaysian crude palm oil (CPO), implying that some 3 million tonnes of the country’s export to the subcontinent will be affected.

The very same media want us to believe that India’s move to “boycott” our CPO is due to Malaysia’s criticism of the country’s treatment of Muslims there. Anti-palm oil lobby at work?

Logic and maths are against the alarmists. Let’s take logic first. Granted that restrictions may at times be caught by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) rules, they are not boycotts as such.

WTO rules say member countries cannot interfere with imports to disrupt trade. It may be hard to prove that India’s Jan 8 notification is an interference with imports.

Or disruption of trade. Some argue that such notifications are covert boycotts. India knows too well that WTO rules are at the disposal of Malaysia or others who are affected by such restrictions.

Now the maths. It is argued that India will go shopping to Indonesia to get the 3 million tonnes that it is now importing from Malaysia.

Well, CPO isn’t something you can pick up as and when you please. What’s more, if it is in tonnes and millions to boot.

Indonesia has countless other customers that it needs to sell its CPO to. It just can’t drop them for India. Even if it does, there is always our 3 million tonnes to distribute among them.

Happily, Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Dr Kalyana Sundram sees the 2020 CPO and palm oil supply projection to be extremely tight, with production in both Indonesia and Malaysia predicted to slow down due to weather conditions and several other factors.

For 2020, due to the overall tight supply situation, prices per tonne are estimated to be higher than last year’s average. This means higher income for our smallholders.

Analysts of one stripe or another say Malaysia should not have expressed its views on Kashmir and India’s citizenship law.

We say Malaysia did the right thing. Malaysia did well by putting people before profit. Also remember this. Hitler was able to kill six million Jews and four million others in extermination camps and gas chambers because the world chose to remain silent.

Extremists Hutus slaughtered 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994 because we remained silent. Myanmar is killing the Rohingya right in our backyard and yet there are some among us who want us to be silent.

Must we turn a blind eye when people are killed around us? Do not get us wrong. We are not saying that what is happening in Kashmir is a holocaust. But isn’t one life one too many? Is one type of life less worthy than another? Bigotry can’t be plainer than this.

Know this. Malaysia isn’t the only one criticising India. Leading Indian newspapers and prominent Indian personalities too have said harsher things. So have international human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations.

More recently, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres had voiced his concern over the alleged use of excessive force by security personnel against Indians protesting against the amended citizenship act. Thus can we mend the errant ways of some in the comity of nations.

Source : NST