PETALING JAYA: It was a busy second day for US President Barack Obama in Malaysia but he made it seem easy as he zipped through the capital full of vigour and even his weighty bilateral talks with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak went smoothly thanks to the “great natural chemistry” between the two leaders.
Najib even got a chance to travel in The Beast, the famed presidential vehicle often described as a formidable mobile fortress.
“It is very uncommon for the US President to invite someone else into The Beast. But Obama asked Najib to hop into the car for the trip from Sri Perdana to Cyberjaya!” minister-in-attendance Khairy Jamaluddin told The Star, saying the leaders’ travelled together to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC).
At the event, Najib also announced that the field in front of the MaGIC headquarters in Cyberjaya would be renamed the “Obama Oval” which Khairy said left Obama “really chuffed and happy”.
Accompanying Obama during his historic Malaysian trip has also been a “very different experience” for Khairy. “The security requirements are much more stringent, compared to being minister-in-attendance for other heads of state,” he said.
Happily, everything went according to plan.
“He still remembers some Bahasa, he understands the people, and he likes the food,” the Umno Youth chief said.
After his morning visit to the National Mosque followed by a closed-door bilateral meeting in Putrajaya, Obama had a working lunch.
Steak and salmon were served at the lunch yesterday, but Obama asked for other delicacies as he could have that fare “at any time”.
No, the United States President did not have nasi goreng USA or fried rice with udang, sotong and ayam (prawn, squid and chicken).
“He chose to have nasi goreng kampung, alongside an ayam kampung dish and steamed ikan patin,” shared Khairy.
When faced with the King and Queen of Fruits, Obama fell in love with mangosteens but chose to forgo durian as he had tasted the pungent fruit before.
Khairy posted on his twitter account a comical photo of the president eyeing a durian served on a plate of fruits. The humorous photo generated more than a thousand retweets.
“When the US delegation asked him what durian was like, Obama said the taste was ‘not bad’, but that the smell was a combination of cheese and old socks! Of course, he made them try it after that,” said a laughing Khairy.
After lunch, it was off to the launch of MaGIC where Obama interacted with a number of schoolchildren and then he was at Universiti Malaya for the Young South-East Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Town Hall with youth leaders.
He delighted the audience when he shared his attempts at learning Bahasa Malaysia.
“I’ve only been in Malaysia a day, but I’ve picked up a new phrase, Malaysia Boleh,” he said to loud applause.