Obama listens to civil society's grouses in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA - US President Barack Obama was all ears as Malaysia's civil society groups raised concerns over issues ranging from human rights abuses to electoral reforms in a 50-minute meeting.

Around 10 civil society leaders met Mr Obama at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday before the American president concluded the first day of his visit to the country as part of a four-nation Asian tour.

"It was a relaxing discussion, Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, chairman of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) told The Star newspaper. "The President was attentive and listened to our grouses intently."

She added that Mr Obama was aware of some instances of violation of the rule of law in the country, and had promised to highlight them given the opportunity.

The civil society groups were invited to meet Mr Obama on Sunday by the US embassy in KualaLumpur. The other representatives include former Bersih chief Ambiga Sreenevasan, who represented the Malaysian Human Rights Society (Hakam), Islamic Renaissance Front chairman Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman Hasmy Agam and others.