Malaysia protests over EU envoy's criticism -report

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 (Reuters) Malaysia has sent a protest note to the European Union condemning critical remarks by the grouping's outgoing envoy as meddling in the affairs of the southeast Asian nation, state news agency Bernama reported.

The diplomat, Thierry Rommel, told Reuters this week that Malaysia was living under an effective state of emergency after police used tear gas and water cannon last weekend to break up the biggest anti-government protest in a decade.

The comments, coming on Rommel's last day in Malaysia, chimed with a chorus of criticism from opposition parties and non-government groups over the government's handling of the protest, which it called an illegal assembly of troublemakers.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar called Rommel's criticism unreasonable and outlandish, Bernama said.

''As a diplomat, he should be more cautious when issuing statements,'' Syed Hamid told reporters yesterday, adding that Rommel had not helped enhance ties between Malaysia and the European Union.

''We feel that it is appropriate that his term has ended. We are very happy that he has left Kuala Lumpur,'' Syed Hamid said.

He said he hoped Rommel's successor would be able to forge closer ties, adding: ''It should not be somebody that likes to put his fingers into our domestic affairs.'' Rommel, who had spent four and a half years in Malaysia, created a storm in June when he gave a speech likening the country's affirmative action policy to a trade barrier, triggering a swift backlash and another formal protest.

But Rommel, a career diplomat who spoke to Reuters on condition that his comments be published after his departure, said he was unrepentant about his criticisms and denied he was trying to superimpose Western values on Malaysia.

REUTERS SYU SSC1153

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