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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has held up a golfing session with US President Barack Obama last year as a sign of his diplomatic prowess, calling himself the only prime minister ever recorded doing so with the leader of the global superpower.
According to news portal Malaysiakini, Najib made the statement while speaking to Malaysian students in New York, where he is currently at, for the United Nations General Assembly.
“I am now on record as the only prime minister to be able to play golf with Obama,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal.
“I did it because I thought it is a very positive way in which we can develop a personal relationship with the US president. I did it for Malaysia, I did it for my people.”
Najib acknowledged, however, the criticism at home over the golfing session that took place during what was arguably the worst flooding to hit peninsular Malaysia late last year.
After a photograph of Najib teeing off with Obama surfaced in December, angry messages flooded the prime minister’s Facebook page, with most calling for him to cancel his holiday and return home.
Najib had then assured Malaysians that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, then deputy prime minister, was handling the crisis, although he returned home shortly after when the flooding worsened.
“Unfortunately, the timing was wrong, I didn’t get any political dividends,” Najib was quoted as saying further in the Malaysiakini report.
Despite the apparent pride over the golfing session with Obama, Najib insisted that Malaysia was not pro-US, citing what he described as equally balmy ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He also pointed out Malaysia’s differing stand to the US on selected foreign policy issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East, among others.
The floods that swept Kelantan and other states in the peninsula were considered the worst in recent decades, displacing over 200,000 Malaysians nationwide from their homes.