US envoy impressed by Kelantan visit

KUALA LUMPUR: The United States Ambassador to Malaysia Brian McFeeters has described his recent visit to Kelantan as an opportunity to learn more about the state's culture and heritage.

"I could not give my full opinion about Kelantan as my visit to the state is only 1½ days. But I got the opportunity to eat a few types of Kelantan famous food during the visit.

"In the morning, I had a taste of the famous nasi kerabu, which I never had before. Later, I was presented with a special type of honey which is called madu kelulut.

"I also paid a courtesy call to Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob and it was a great meeting," he said when asked on his opinion on Kelantan during a special interview with New Straits Times on Wednesday at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) in Bachok.

McFeeters also said he was impressed to see the womenfolk running businesses at the famous Siti Khadijah Market.

"I only saw few men and a majority of traders there are women. I had never seen anything like it in Kuala Lumpur.

"I talked to some of them and it is nice to see a real commercial business and they (traders) are proud about their goods. It is really fun to see all this."

On Malaysia-US relations, McFeeters said trade between both countries had remained significant.

"We (at the embassy) will always try to promote US exports. We have a big trading relationship between Malaysia and US.

"Most of it is (centres on) Malaysian exports like palm oil and food products. (Meanwhile) from the US, are agricultural products, among others.

"As an embassy, we try to create more opportunities for US exports. We also encourage Malaysia to invest in the US. And as the ambassador, one of the jobs is to encourage them (to invest in the US). We want Malaysia to invest in the US (and help) to create jobs, just like US companies investing in Malaysia," he said.

The ambassador also said his embassy would continue emphasising three broad areas to further strengthen Malaysia-US relationship, including "people-to-people approach" and security.

On the issues that needed to be mitigated for the interests of both nations, McFeeters said he believed trafficking-in persons would be topping the list.

"Issues such as trafficking-in persons is very serious. We have such issues in the US. This is a problem around the world and we are not pretending it has been solved.

"In the US, we have a very serious approach to it (which apart from) law enforcement, we work with prostitutes (who are victims) and non-governmental organisations.

"We are trying to help Malaysia with the same approach because unfortunately, (trafficking-in persons exists in Malaysia) due to the country's dependence on foreign labour."

At the same time, McFeeters said both countries could work together to stamp out corruption and promote freedom of speech.

"We have various training and transparency programmes, but we consider that corruption will be a big problem as well as human rights, such as the freedom of expression. We do not want a journalist like yourself to be threatened or to have newspapers being shut down.

"We think it is important to send a message of press freedom, religious freedom and human rights. So that it is something we are working on as well," he said.

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