KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 – More than 100 Asean young leaders will share their views and opinions with the United States (US) President Barack Obama in a “town hall” meeting, an informal public meeting, to be held at a local university, here Sunday. The 103 participants of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), an intiative launched by Obama last December, will give the US president the opportunity to have a better understanding of the younger generation of the region. The programme is part of the US president’s three-day state visit to Malaysia, starting today. For Malaysia’s Special Envoy to the United States, Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis, the informal meeting will be a good platform for the US president to better understand the differences between the Asean’s youth and the American youth.

He said the young leaders should grab the opportunity to share their concerns, opinions and experiences about the current development or situation in their respective countries to provide a better understanding to the US president on the Asean region scenario. “If previously, they (US) have negative perceptions towards the region, towards Islam, it is timely now for the young leaders to correct the misconceptions and let him (Obama) see the real picture,” he told Bernama. YSEALI is a new initiative by the US government, which among others seeks to augment leadership development and networking in Asean, deepen engagement with young leaders across critical sectors and strengthen people-to-people ties between US and young leaders across the region. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF), Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, believed the more important thing is for Obama to hear the issues that concerned young people of Asean.

He said the young leaders who represented the grassroots voices, should used this rare opportunity to express their opinions and thoughts on issues that affect them. “I think one of Obama uniqueness, as compared to the previous presidents, he is more genuine in his initiative to listen to people and we must take this opportunity because he was once brought up here and he has certain sentimental values with this region. “I would really like to see the participants to speak their mind and not just ask questions. The problem sometimes with Asean, participants do not really share but simply ask questions and if you have to say hard stuff, by all means, say it,” he told Bernama. Saifuddin said the participants are Asean leaders of tomorrow, who probably are already involved in the decision making in their countries. “Thus, listening to this “103 young Asean leaders is almost like listening to a whole of Asean government leaders to a certain extent,” he said. “I think Obama wants to see what young people are thinking today because they are from a good component of the population of Asean,” he added.

— Photo By: The Star Publication (M)

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