Najib’s Trump meeting opportunity to highlight Rohingya issue

Sep 10, 2017

WASHINGTON DC: Kuala Lumpur is seeking to further strengthen six decades of bilateral ties with Washington and chart the way forward when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak steps into the Oval Office for talks Tuesday with United States President Donald Trump.

And with all eyes trained on disturbing events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the meeting at the White House would be the best opportunity for Malaysia to raise the plight of the Rohingya refugees to the super power.

These were among the matters touched by Malaysian ambassador to the US Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique when briefing the media Saturday ahead of Najib’s Sept 11-13 working visit to the US at the invitation of President Trump.

It will also be a platform for Malaysia to highlight its anti-terrorism stance and the role it plays in efforts to combat the scourge that is equally of concern to like-minded countries such as the US.

“This visit is an avenue for the prime minister to impress upon the US about Malaysia’s importance in the fight against terrorism, as a voice of moderation and pragmatism as well as dynamic and progressive Muslim-majority,” said Zulhasnan.

Elaborating further, Zulhasnan said Najib was expected to bring up the issue of the oppression of the minority Rohingya community in Myanmar not only in his four-eyed meeting with Trump but also during bilateral talks between the two governments.

Kuala Lumpur views the plight of the Rohingya very seriously and has given a commitment to assist in tackling the refugee crisis involving the community whereby more than 500,000 Rohingya are reported to have fled to Bangladesh, Myanmar’s neighbour in the west.

This working visit by Najib makes him the second Southeast Asian leader after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to have a meeting in the White House.

According to Zulhasnan, Malaysia’s new vision Transformasi Nasional 50 (TN50) will be among the important topics that will be explained to the US administration in the context of fostering even greater ties between the two countries. TN50 charts Malaysia’s future from 2021 to 2050 and replaces Vision 2020 which ends in less than three years.

“This is a good opportunity for us to talk (with the new president). We have a new policy, the TN50… so it’ll be good to discuss what’s our way forward until 2050 ,” the envoy said.

Zulhasnan said that in the eight months he has been ambassador to the United States, he could see the willingness of the Trump administration to boost trade ties, more so after the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was discontinued.

He said a number of trade talks with business and industry leaders were lined up during Najib’s visit to further enhance Malaysia-United States trade ties.

The four-eyed meeting between Najib and Trump at the Oval Office will be followed by a delegation meeting which will also involve Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defence James Mattis, White House Chief of Staff Gen John Kelly and National Security Advisor Lt Gen H.R. McMaster.

The Malaysian delegation among others is expected to include Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed . –Bernama