Sunday, 27 April 2014

by Ryan Lien Kar Sheng, Freshman Terra, Class of 2017

As of 26 April 2014, President Barack Obama became the second U.S. President to visit Malaysia. President Lyndon B. Johnson visited back in 1966. Obama arrives hoping to strengthen bilateral relations with Malaysia after decades of less than easy ties.



After the landing of U.S. Air Force One at the Royal Malaysian Air Base, President Obama was brought to Kuala Lumpur’s Parliament Square. Upon arriving, a 21-gun salute rang out as Malaysia’s king, Abdul Halim of Kedah and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak greeted the president. The national military band played the U.S. and Malaysia national anthems twice in honour of the 2 countries.

After the ceremony had come to an end, Obama’s next stop was Istana Negara (National Palace), for an audience with the royal family before he took his seat at a 600-people state dinner as the honoured guest. The state dinner was held at a banquet hall inside the king's residence.

President Obama was interviewed by The Star, a local Malaysian English newspaper.

“I see my visit as an opportunity to formalize a comprehensive partnership and lay the foundation for even closer ties for years to come," he said.

Trade, defence and maritime security are also issues President Obama and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak are expected to discuss about during talks scheduled for this Sunday.

Currently trending on twitter: Obama & Naijb selfie! 

The disappearance of MH370 carrying 239 people in March placed Malaysia in the international spotlight just as President Obama was preparing to head to the region. The U.S. is also assisting in the massive international search effort.

Absent from President Obama's journey to Malaysia: a meeting with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who now represents the strongest political threat to Prime Minister Najib amid a decline in the prime minister’s popular support over the past two elections.

The U.S. had rejected calls from human rights groups for the Obama to meet with the 66-year-old former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, but instead sent Susan Rice, his national security adviser and a former U.N. ambassador, to meet with him.

President Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters traveling with President Obama that the president will not meet with opposition leaders during foreign visits, but felt the issue was important enough to send Susan Rice instead.

Before completing his tour of Asia and returning to Washington, the president will spend Monday and Tuesday in the Philippines. 
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