Malaysian PM Najib defends 'golf diplomacy' with Obama

KELANTAN - Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has defended his decision to play golf in Hawaii with United States President Barack Obama at a time when his country was facing the worst flood in decades, calling it "golf diplomacy".

It did not mean that he was deliberately ignoring the floods, as criticised by some opposition groups, he said according to Bernama.

Speaking to the media after visiting some flood-hit areas in Kelantan on Saturday, Mr Najib explained that Mr Obama had invited him to a game of golf when he visited Malaysia in April, and plans were made much earlier to coincide their schedules.

"Playing golf is not something strange or extraordinary," Mr Najib said, adding that "playing golf with world leaders could be described as golf diplomacy".

Even when he was away, Mr Najib said he received the latest flood updates on a daily basis. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is head of the National Disaster Management Committee.

When he saw that the situation was getting serious, Mr Najib decided to "return as soon as possible" to oversee relief operations.

He flew direct to Kota Baru in Kelantan to "demonstrate that the government is very committed to continue to assist the flood victims," he added.

Mr Najib has announced that an additional RM500 million (S$190 million) will be allocated to help flood victims, after the government's initial pledge of RM50 million.

More than 160,000 people have been evacuated due to the floods, with the worst-hit states being Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.