It's golf diplomacy, Najib says in response to criticisms over Hawaii trip

Mr Najib told a news conference at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport on Saturday that he was personally invited by Mr Obama and it was hard for him to turn it down as it has been scheduled much earlier. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Najib told a news conference at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport on Saturday that he was personally invited by Mr Obama and it was hard for him to turn it down as it has been scheduled much earlier. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has explained that his private trip to Hawaii to meet US President Barack Obama was a diplomatic gesture that will benefit the country.

Mr Najib said there was nothing unusual about the trip and described it as "golf diplomacy".

"This has been a common practice even by previous prime ministers including during Tunku Abdul Rahman's administration.

"I was personally invited by Obama and it is hard for me to turn it down as it has been scheduled much earlier," he told a news conference at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport on Saturday.

Mr Najib cut short his trip to the US and flew straight to Kelantan to monitor the situation.

The Prime Minister said although he was away, he received constant updates about the floods situation.

"Since it is getting more serious, I decided to return home. I flew straight here to check on the situation. We are committed to help the flood victims.

"While I was there, the Deputy Prime Minister was here and while he was away, I was here to look after the country," he said.

Malaysians have vented their anger at Mr Najib after photos went viral on social media showing him playing golf with Mr Obama while Malaysia was experiencing its worst floods.

The number of people evacuated jumped to more than 160,000 on Saturday. Mr Najib announced that an additional RM500 million (S$189 million) will be spent to aid victims after the flood subsides, following an initial government allocation of RM50 million.