Obama has Malaysian links through half-sister

July 21st, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama

Kuala Lumpur, July 21 (IANS) US Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama has Malaysian links through his half-sister, Maya Soetoro, who lives in America but is married to an academician of Malaysian origin. Maya and Obama have the same mother - Ann Dunham, a white American cultural anthropologist. While Obama’s father was Barack Obama Senior, a Kenyan, Maya’s father Lolo Soetoro was an Indonesian businessman. She is married to Konrad Ng, whose parents hail from Malaysia.

Ng is amused that his Malaysian roots got noticed halfway round the world, thanks to his link to Obama. An assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in Manoa (UHM), Ng’s family originally comes from Sabah, Malaysia, The Star newspaper said Monday.

It carried a photograph of the two branches of the same family watching an Independence Day parade in the US four years ago. It shows Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, their daughters Sasha and Malia, Maya, Ng, and their daughter Suhalia.

In an e-mail interview with The Star, Ng, 34, said that his father, Howard, was born in Sandakan and his mother, Joan, in Kudat.

“I have many relatives who live throughout Malaysia, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and the two towns where my parents came from,” he said.

His parents subsequently settled in Canada and Ng was born there.

“Malaysia remains an important place to them. In addition to a large, extended family, they have many good friends in Malaysia. I try to visit Malaysia every few years. It is a special country and feels familiar to me,” said Ng.

Maya, who was born in Jakarta, cherishes her Indonesian roots. According to Ng, she is active in the local Indonesian community and continues to speak Bahasa Indonesia when she can. She visits Indonesia every few years.

Ng described Obama as exceptionally brilliant. “He has a thorough understanding of the challenges we face and sound judgement on how we should address these challenges.

“Barack is a dedicated family man and cares deeply about transforming the world into a better place so that all families will have the same opportunities to do better,” he said.

“Southeast Asia is a place of connection for him and a region that he understands well. It gave him numerous examples of alternative modes of communication and perspective. Maya, Barack and I have talked about the beauty of southeast Asia and our mutual desire to visit again,” Ng added.

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