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Commonwealth Then and Now

“With a population of 2.2 billion in 53 nations across every continent of the world as a legacy of the British Empire, the Commonwealth bond is still very much relevant in today’s world. The United Nations, European Union, G-20 and ASEAN all have Commonwealth countries as members,” said British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Her Excellency Victoria Marguerite Treadell.

Speaking at a dinner function in Ipoh co-hosted by the Perak Academy and Perak Women for Women Society, the Ipoh-born British diplomat was on a four-day working visit to the city as part of her familiarisation trip making connections across the country to understand Malaysia better.

During the dinner talk titled, “The Commonwealth Then and Now”, Vicki, as she prefers to be addressed rather than “Your Excellency”, related her personal Commonwealth journey, comparing the Commonwealth that she knew as a child born in Ipoh and the Commonwealth now, returning “home” as a British diplomat.

One thing that she continues to hold true are the sixteen core values of the Commonwealth Charter namely, freedom of expression, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, sustainable development, democracy, human rights, international peace and security, tolerance, respect and understanding, protecting the environment, access to health care, education, food and shelter, gender equality, importance of young people in the Commonwealth, recognition of the needs of the small states, recognition of the needs of the vulnerable states, and last but not least, the role of civil society.

In her talk, she said that rather than these just being values of the Commonwealth, they are actually human values and beliefs that we uphold in all that we do.

Vicki also assured that the United Kingdom stands by members of the Commonwealth and considers these nations as its closest partners and allies. She added, “Britain left each Commonwealth country with democracy, the rule of law and great tradition.

“Moreover, the common unifying language for the Commonwealth is English. It’s the international business language, the international technical language and a liberating language. It is a ticket for a global career.

“Acquiring a second language allows us the ability to articulate our views better, opens the door for wider opportunities, makes us more understanding, helps us to embrace new ideas and feel less isolated.

“English is a true legacy of the Commonwealth. So, as citizens of the Commonwealth, we must make our unique position relevant to our lives,” she added.

The diplomat also revealed how the United Kingdom would like to work together with Malaysia on good governance and all those other areas that will help the country become a developed nation; a status achievable in five years’ time, in her opinion. A major milestone it would be for Malaysia although it carries great responsibilities, such as freedom of expression but within limits.

This means that Great Britain will help to draw more British investments and partnerships into the country to support Malaysia’s aspirations of becoming a hub for British businesses in ASEAN.

At this point, there are already five British university campuses in Malaysia, which means that Malaysians pursuing a British education need not head to Britain to secure it.

In fact, these campuses also attract students from neighbouring countries, who may feel “at home” in Malaysia due to the Commonwealth bond. There is a familiarity, a comfort and a commonality of the English language. There is the recognition that the constitution and legislation are largely based on the British common law.

She concluded, “Commonwealth nations share a modern, vibrant and relevant relationship because of the legacy of the Commonwealth history, all as a consequence of the Empire.”

During her visit to Ipoh, Her Excellency met up with representatives from the state government and the opposition, community leaders, members of non-governmental organisations and local young adults, among others. She also visited an aboriginal village.

Emily Lowe

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