From: Nelson, Colleen [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2015 01:55 PM
To: Barnes, Desiree N. EOP/WHO
Subject: Travel Pool Report #6 -- civil society roundtable
The pool was escorted into the hotel meeting room where President Obama and a handful of U.S. officials were poised to meet with civil society leaders.
Obama said he was meeting with outstanding, courageous men and women who represent civil society. “As many of you who have accompanied me on foreign trips know, one of the things that I like to in addition to meeting with leaders of government is also to meet with civil society leaders and here from them directly about the kinds of issues and challenges that they are facing,” Obama said.
He said the U.S. and his administration as a matter of policy strongly believe in the promotion of civil society. “When you have a strong civil society, you have a government that’s more accountable,” he said.
“Strong societies ultimately have strong civil societies,” he said.
“Malaysia as a country that traditionally has a wide range of ethnic groups and religious faiths and a tradition of tolerance very much benefits from the multiplicity of voices that need to be heard,” Obama said. “This is also a country that has a constitution….”
Many civil society groups are concerned about any constrictions on civil liberties and civil rights and also expanding the boundaries of civil society so that people in Malaysia and around the region are able to have their voices heard, he said.
“We very much appreciate the work that they do,” Obama said. “Part of the reason that I wanted to meet with them was to send a clear message that the United States stands behind the important work that they’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”
Obama said in his conversations with ASEAN leaders and leaders around the globe he emphasizes his belief in basic universal values like freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. “These are all things that will make countries stronger,” he said.
He thanked the participants and said he looked forward to hearing from them directly, and the pool was escorted out.
The White House passes along the names of the civil society leaders in the meeting:
Ms. Nisha Ayub
Justice for Sisters, SEED Foundation
Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah
Chair, Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH)
Ms. Cynthia Gabriel
Executive Director, The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism
Ms. Theresa Symons
Executive Director, Good Shepherd Welfare Services
Ms. Ambiga Sreenevasan
President, The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
Mr. Steven Thiru
President, Malaysian Bar Council
Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz
President, Institute for Democracy & Economic Affairs (IDEAS)
Mr. Premesh Chandran
Chief Executive Officer, Malaysiakini
Colleen McCain Nelson
The Wall Street Journal