27 Jun, 2009

President Obama


Last night at about 9.12pm, I was pleased to hold a telephone conversation that lasted about 20 minutes with my American counterpart, President Barack Obama. It was our first conversation with each other as Heads of State and we exchanged congratulatory wishes on our respective appointments. I expressed that I was looking forward to working closely with him. President Obama graciously acknowledged my ability to serve as Prime Minister based on my extensive background in the public service.

I extended an invitation to him to visit Malaysia so that he may observe how Islam is applied in a plural, multi-ethnic society like Malaysia, following the President’s recognition of Kuala Lumpur as an example of a progressive Muslim-majority country in his recent address to the Muslim world in Cairo. I explained to him that Malaysia shares significant common grounds with the United States of America in that we strongly believe in the ideals and principles of democracy, including accountability and transparency. I also spoke about the initiation of the 1Malaysia concept and how the sense of togetherness and belonging will help Malaysians move forward with a common purpose.

President Obama also raised the subject of the global economic crisis, to which I explained how Malaysia has been affected by it. We also discussed on revisiting the Free Trade Agreement at an appropriate juncture. Our conversation also touched on issues regarding North Korea and Iran, and in particular regarding nuclear development programmes, money laundering and terrorist activities.

As President Obama had previously stated his intention to close down the Guantanamo detention centre, I sought for him to clarify his position on the matter and stated our willingness to work with the United States to arrange for the transfer of the two Malaysian detainees currently held there. I also extended Malaysia’s offer of civil cooperation with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan if it is required.

The conversation left me with a sense of optimism towards our relationship with the United States of America. I look forward to renewing Malaysia’s ties with the United States under President Obama’s administration and hope to explore solutions and opportunities to mutually benefit both countries in the immediate and long-term future.