Malaysian Ambassador to the United States Rajmah Hussain expressed a positive outlook about her country’s 50 years of economic achievements and its prospects for the future in a speech at the 2007 Malaysian Gala in Atlanta.

Over its half-century of nationhood, the Southeast Asian nation has transformed from a disbanded British colony to a unified “small country that is to be reckoned with” in a global economy, Dr. Rajmah said at the gala, which was organized by the Malaysian Association of Georgia to celebrate 50 years of both the country’s independence and diplomatic ties with the United States.

Since Malaysia gained independence on Aug. 31, 1957, the relationship between the two countries has led to a fruitful trading partnership, even though a free trade agreement is still in the negotiation process, she told GlobalAtlanta at a pre-gala press conference.

“I am pleased to say that 50 years on, the United States and Malaysia share a diverse and expanding relationship,” she told the audience of some 360 business and community leaders at the gala.

Malaysia has become the U.S.’ 10th largest trading partner, and two-way trade amounting to $46.5 billion accounted for 16 percent of Malaysia’s global trade in 2006, she said.

“The U.S. is currently the largest foreign investor in the Malaysian manufacturing sector,” she added.

Malaysia is the 19th largest trading nation in the world, and more than 5,200 companies from 80 countries do business there, with 190 of them coming from the U.S., according to statistics released by the Malaysian association.

In addition to diversifying its industry sectors in global trade, Dr. Rajmah mentioned that Malaysia wanted to draw more international vacationers to boost its tourism industry.

The government has designated this year as “Visit Malaysia Year 2007,” and Dr. Rajmah has actively promoted her country in Washington. The embassy there hosted a reception with the theme of “Malaysia: The Truly Asian Kitchen,” which showed how the nation’s ethnic diversity has influenced its distinct culinary style.

About half of the country’s 27 million inhabitants are of the Malay ethnic group, while almost one-fourth are Chinese. As much as 7 percent of the people are of Indian descent and about 11 percent are indigenous to the region.

Dr. Rajmah stressed the importance of organizations like Malaysian Association of Georgia in helping individuals–regardless of their ethnic background–represent their national identity.

“I am indeed proud that you have kept your Malaysian roots close to your heart and have taken the initiative to share Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage with fellow Americans through organizing this Malaysian Gala,” she said.

Dr. Rajmah is the first female to represent Malaysia as ambassador to the United States. A disarmament specialist trained as a United Nations disarmament fellow, she earned a doctoral degree in international studies from University of London, and she served as the Malaysian ambassador to Austria, Belgium and France before coming to America.

The king of Malaysia recently conferred upon her the honorary title of Datuk, although she has not been home to participate in the formal ceremony confirming this designation.

As the third annual Malaysian Gala, this year’s event had the highest attendance numbers thus far, and Dr. Rajmah attended for the second straight year.

Other notable Malaysians attended the event, including Zamzani Abdul Wahab, better known as Chef Zam, who has been described as the Malaysian Emeril.

The celebrity chef, known for his singing on camera and his energetic television personality, studied in the United States and now teaches at a culinary university in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

For the gala he prepared his version of a popular Malaysian dish called Ayam Percik, which consists of chicken marinated in a spicy coconut glaze and cooked over open coals.

Also in attendance was Muhamad Muqharabbin Mokhtarrudin, a 25-year-old professional adventurer, speaker and writer who promotes world peace through his travels. Qobain, as he calls himself, is the youngest Malaysian ever to summit Mount Everest, and he is currently on a bicycling tour around the world.

He journeyed from Memphis, Tenn., to Atlanta to attend the event.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Malaysian Ambassador to the U.S. in Atlanta Aug. 11 for Annual Gala [VIDEO]

Malaysian Association of Georgia – Fabian De Rozario, president 404.409.2971