Obama to meet Putrajaya’s critics during weekend visit, say activists


(TMI) – US President Barack Obama will meet representatives of a range of civil-society groups –  including some which have harshly criticised Malaysia’s government – when he visits the country this weekend, activists said.

Obama aims to strengthen ties with Muslim-majority Malaysia when he arrives tomorrow for a two-night stay, the first visit by a serving US president since 1966.

But he also will meet briefly on Sunday with nine leading activists and a Christian leader, said Farouk Musa, head of a moderate Muslim group and one of the invitees.

The activists will include representatives of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, or Bersih , an election reform movement whose supporters have clashed with authorities in huge recent protests.

The US has offered praise for Malaysia as a moderate Muslim, multi-faith country. But Human Rights Watch today urged Obama to “speak loudly” on rights in Malaysia, whose 57-year-old Muslim-dominated ruling coalition is accused by critics of clamping down on opponents and presiding over worsening religious intolerance.

“President Obama needs to take up concerns that basic rights are under threat, and that civil society is squeezed between restrictive laws and abusive government implementation,” said John Sifton, the group’s Asia advocacy director.