The New Straits Times (24/08/2020) - WHEN I arrived in Malaysia for the first time more than 22 years ago, little did I know that a short business trip would become only a start of my long and exciting journey with this beautiful country.
From day one of my interaction with locals, I fell in love with compassionate, diverse and friendly people.
My gastronomic acquaintances with roti canai, nasi lemak, teh tarik and durian were yet to be made, but I knew right away that this country already had a special place in my heart.
I realised that Ukrainians and Malaysians share quite similar values and aspirations. We may seem to live distance apart, but, essentially, we are remarkably close. Throughout the history, we have been trying to earn our living by working hard and making most of our resources.
Like most of human beings, we are used to sharing and helping our neighbours. We never try to take advantage of those vulnerable and oppressed. These values determine who we are as people.
They are also a cornerstone of our actions and policies on the global stage. Both our nations uphold the right for self-determination, sanctity of the international law and unwavering commitment to peaceful resolution of all disputes.
It came as no surprise that in 1992, Malaysia was one of the first Asean countries to recognise Ukraine's independence and to establish diplomatic relations.
In March 2014, when my country was stabbed in the back by a neighbourhood bully once called "brother", Malaysia along with other free-loving nations unequivocally supported the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, affirming commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.
We stood shoulder to shoulder when the flames of war, so recklessly imposed on Ukraine, suddenly hurt Malaysia from a thousand miles away.
The news of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy shook the world and over time became another connection, binding our nations together even stronger.
In July 2015, we teamed up in the UN Security Council (UNSC) when Malaysia put forward a draft resolution calling for the international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the crime.
We did not give up even after it was sabotaged by the "veto", hastily exercised by one of the UNSC permanent members.
To the contrary, Ukraine, Malaysia and other grieving nations puttogether an international team to conduct a comprehensive, impartial and thorough investigation. After more than five years of complex meticulous work involving thousands of disturbing testimonies and terrifying evidence, the case is now with the court of law in The Hague.
Rest assured, despite continuous streams of lies and propaganda, justice will be served. Trade and commerce have always been a driving force behind conventional diplomacy. In the post-Covid-19 realities, our common priority is to secure swift economic recovery by expanding external trade, attracting more foreign direct investments and penetrating new markets. Last year, Ukraine's trade with Malaysia exceeded US$400 million.
Fortunately, even current global economic downturn did not have a major impact on our bilateral commerce and business cooperation. Our economies are mutually complementary in so many ways. Ukraine has always been among top five importers of palm oil in Europe.
Recognising critical importance of the industry for Malaysian national economy, we stand firm to keep our market free from any restrictions on this commodity.
Being a major agricultural powerhouse, Ukraine can be an important food security contributor for Malaysia.
In fact, it is already happening. In the first six month of 2020, our grain exports to Malaysia quadrupled, reaching almost US$50 million. As the world adjusts to the new normal, demand for online platforms and applications is growing exponentially.
Ukraine is willing to share its IT, fintech and blockchain-based public services solutions with Malaysian partners. Aerospace, education, defence, pharmaceuticals research and development, and medical tourism are other promising areas, just to name a few. Before the pandemic, more than 1,000 Ukrainians were visiting Malaysia on a monthly basis. I hope that in the not too distant future, Langkawi, Penang, Terengganu, Sabah and other favourite holiday destinations will reopen for foreign tourists again.
Over the years, I have travelled to each state and federal territory in Malaysia. Everywhere I go, I see how much more can be done to bring our nations closer by making new friends and untapping new opportunities.
I feel honoured and privileged to represent Ukraine in Malaysia and to be a part of this neverending story of mutual discovery.
I see it as colourful fabrics of batik and vyshyvanka, reflecting a multifaceted, tried and tested partnership between our nations.
Read more at https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/08/618788/ukraine-malaysia-partnership