Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is apparently US president-elect Donald Trump’s golfing buddy and “favourite Prime Minister”.
Given the ties between the two men, some observers expect the relationship between Muslim-majority Malaysia and the US to remain good despite Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during his bitterly fought campaign.
“Next to the prime minister’s chair in his office is a photo of him and Trump. It is signed by Trump with the words “To my favourite Prime Minister”, a Malaysian government source told This Week in Asia. “They are golfing buddies,” he said, adding the picture was taken “not too long ago”.
The government-owned New Straits Times quoted Najib as saying he “personally knows Trump and the president-elect is no stranger to him.”
“I congratulate President-elect Trump on this extraordinary victory, and look forward to meeting him again soon,” said Najib on his official Facebook account.
Outgoing President Barack Obama is also a golfing buddy of Najib and was the first sitting US president to visit Malaysia in 50 years when he made an official trip to the country in 2014.
This was followed by a second official visit to Kuala Lumpur in November last year, a trip which some saw as a move to secure Malaysia’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The relationship cooled when the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to seize assets allegedly stolen from investment state firm 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) last July.
Najib chaired the advisory board of 1MDB when the alleged embezzlement took place.
The DOJ named a close business associate of Najib and his stepson in a civil lawsuit to recover US$1 billion in assets that Washington says were bought by money embezzled from the fund.
Some politicians are waiting to see how the investigation into 1MDB, which led to the opposition calling for Najib to resign, proceeds under a Trump presidency.
“After failing with Obama, the question is whether Najib will have better luck lobbying the new president to drop attempts to seize the laundered funds and assets siphoned from 1MDB,” said Tony Pua, opposition Member of Parliament from the Democratic Action Party (DAP).