GEORGE TOWN • Australia is waiting for a formal request from Malaysia to send former policeman Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted of murdering Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, back to Malaysia.
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski said that while Australia would not allow a person on death row to return to his home country, Sirul had overstayed his visa.
"Although he's being held at a detention centre, he has the freedom to receive visitors and communicate with the outside world," said Mr Goledzinowski in an interview with The Star last Friday.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said that the death sentence imposed on Sirul might be commuted to allow Australia to extradite the former police corporal back to Malaysia.
Together with colleague Azilah Hadri, Sirul was convicted of Ms Altantuya's murder and sentenced to death in 2009.
However, Sirul fled to Australia where he was detained by the Australian Immigration in Sydney after Interpol issued a Red Notice.
He has been held at the Villawood Detention Camp in Sydney since 2015.
Although he's being held at a detention centre, he has the freedom to receive visitors and communicate with the outside world.
AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER TO MALAYSIA ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI, on Sirul Azhar Umar, who is being held at the Villawood Detention Camp in Sydney.
On another matter, Mr Goledzinowski said that Australia was seeking greater cooperation with Malaysia under Dr Mahathir, after ties between the two countries soured in 1993 during the tenure of Australian leader Paul Keating.
"It was an isolated affair and ties between our two countries were not exactly thorny during Mahathir's tenure then," he said.
"We want to be the partner of choice and are willing to work in every area possible under the new administration."
Mr Goledzinowski was commenting on the heated episode in 1993 where Mr Keating labelled Dr Mahathir "recalcitrant" after the latter refused to travel to Seattle, the United States, to attend the Apec meeting.
Mr Keating later said he regretted calling Dr Mahathir "recalcitrant" but stopped short of issuing an actual apology.
"Well, it's not an old Mahathir or an old Australia, because today, we are part of Asia and this is where we want to be as we have important trade and security links in this area," Mr Goledzinowski said.
"Mahathir says what he thinks and thinks what he says and we respect him for that."
He added: "We are eyeing a smooth relation with the new administration as Australia is looking at Malaysia as the beacon of democracy in the region.
"Australia is the No. 1 education destination for Malaysians, where more than 26,000 students study there and tourist arrivals from Australia have increased, with 571,000 travelling to Malaysia last year, and the number is expected to be higher this year."
Mr Goledzinowski, who took on his new post in January, has met Dr Mahathir and other ministers over the past few weeks, and is looking into enhancing the present cooperation between both countries.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK