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Monday July 21, 2008

Obama has links to Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Dr Konrad Ng is amused that his Malaysian roots got noticed halfway round the world, thanks to his link to Democrat candidate Barack Obama.

An assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in Manoa (UHM), Ng, whose family originally comes from Sabah, is married to Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro.

Not too long ago: Watching an Independence Day parade in the US four years ago were (from left) Michelle Obama, her daughter Sasha, Obama, Malia, Maya, Ng, and their daughter Suhalia. - AP

Maya and Obama have the same mother.

In an e-mail interview with The Star, Ng, 34, said that his father, Howard, was born in Sandakan and his mother, Joan, in Kudat.

“I have many relatives who live throughout Malaysia, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and the two towns where my parents came from,” he said.

His parents subsequently settled in Canada and Ng was born there.

Maya was born to Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian businessman, and Ann Dunham, a white American cultural anthropologist, who is also Obama’s mother.

The family tree: Dr Konrad Ng, Maya, Howard and Joan posing for a picture. Maya, who is Obama’s half sister, is married to Ng whose parents originally came from Sabah.

Ng said his parents return to Malaysia once every one to two years.

“It remains an important place of origin to them. In addition to a large, extended family, they have many good friends in Malaysia. I try to visit Malaysia every few years; it is a special country and feels familiar to me,” said Ng.

Maya, who was born in Jakarta, also cherishes her Indonesian roots.

According to Ng, she is active in the local Indonesian community and continues to speak Indonesian when she can. She visits Indonesia every few years.

Ng described Obama as exceptionally brilliant.

“He has a thorough understanding of the challenges we face and sound judgment on how we should address these challenges.

“Barack is a dedicated family man and cares deeply about transforming the world into a better place so that all families will have the same opportunities to do better.

“South-East Asia is a place of connection for him and a region that he understands well. It gave him numerous examples of alternative modes of communication and perspective.

“Maya, Barack and I have talked about the beauty of South-East Asia and our mutual desire to visit again,” he said.

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