Monday, June 8, 2009

Malaysian Journalist face to face with Barack Obama!!

Recently, Shahanaz Habib, a senior Malaysian journalist with the Star newspaper, had the exclusive privilege to interview the most powerful man in the world - the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, at the Cairo University.

Shahanaz is no stranger in the media fraternity.

She has done big big assignments.

She covered the 2003 US invasion in Iraq and she was the first Malaysian journalist to enter the war zone, she witnessed the Israel bombing of Gaza and she was among the first Malaysian media personell to reach Acheh after the devastating 2004 Tsunami.

This is her story.

No airs: Obama posing for a casual photograph with the writer, Shahanaaz Habib(second from right) and other journalists at the Cairo University after the interview. – Official White House photo by PETE SOUZA

Bowled over by the ever-so-charming ObamaNo airs:

SO how was Barack Obama? Quite charming really.

When the 44th United States president entered the room for the round table interview with seven journalists, he walked over to them to extend his hand and say hello.

And he paid attention even in those brief seconds.

When I introduced myself and said I was from Malaysia, I was a bit surprised to hear a “Apa Khabar” (How are you?) from him.

I knew he still spoke some Bahasa Indonesia, having lived and studied in Jakarta for over three years when he was a young boy. When I remarked in Malay that he was able to remember the language, he quipped: “Lupa banyak. Bicara sedikit.”

During the interview, Indonesia’s Bambang Harymurti editor-in-chief of Tempo asked Obama when he would come to Indonesia and the reply was that he expected to visit very soon as part of his trip to Asia.

“I want to see Jakarta again and eat nasi goreng and bakso,” he said, and then turned to the other journalists to explain that these are special Indonesian food that he used to eat as a child when he was in Jakarta.

Sharing briefly about the house he used to live in, he said, back then the road leading to it was a dirt road which turned to mud when it rained.

It is little down-to-earth things like this that add to his charm.

In person, Obama looks taller than his 6ft frame because he is lean. At 47 years old, there are already traces of gray peppering his short-cropped hair.

And of course there is the famous Obama smile – although he did not smile that much during the interview.

Looking relaxed in a dark suit, a white shirt and blue tie, he listened intently as each journalist asked his or her question.

At times he cupped his face as he listened. And he spoke clearly and slowly, giving lengthy answers to each question and looking at the journalist who asked the question straight in the eye – giving the impression that each question mattered.

He exuded confidence and optimism and came across as very sincere and spoke with conviction.

It is unfortunate that because of the time constraint and his schedule, we only managed one round of questions (each asked one main question and one supplementary) but he gave good answers to them.

Just before he rushed off to the Pyramids, he obliged autographing a copy of his book and taking a group photo.

When we posed for the photo, he asked us two female journalists who are a lot shorter than the guys to stand next to him and put his arms around us as if we were buddies.

What is there not to like about him?

But as they say, a new broom always sweeps clean. So ask me again in four years’ time after he has had a chance to prove himself!


pinolobu said...

That was an opportunity of a lifetime

Malaysian Hollywood 2.0 said...

ahhhh... but Obama still can speak Bahasa Indonesia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jika anda bertanya kepada Barack Obama pertanyaan ini ? Pernahkan bapak Obama ternampak perawan yang begitu anggun dan menawan sekali sehinggakan Pak Obama enggak bisa menampung gejolak nafsu serakah dan terus melakukan proses obrak obrik????????

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