Kuala Lumpur – COVID-19 has not stopped the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Ambassador Brian D. McFeeters from interacting with different parts of Malaysia. From August 16-20, 2021, Ambassador McFeeters conducted a virtual visit to Sabah through a series of meetings with state government officials, representatives from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Sabahan alumni of U.S. Embassy exchange programs to discuss U.S.-Sabah cooperation on the environment, human rights, security cooperation, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and more.
The Sabah trip was Ambassador McFeeters’ second virtual visit outside of the Klang Valley. Last month, Ambassador McFeeters visited Penang for his first virtual trip since his arrival in Kuala Lumpur in February this year.
The Sabah visit started with Ambassador McFeeters’ courtesy call on the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Haji Panglima Haji Hajiji Noor. During the meeting, both leaders discussed their desire to strengthen the U.S.-Sabah public health partnership. COVID-19 remains the top priority for the United States, and the U.S. Embassy will continue to assist Malaysia to fight the pandemic. In addition to the one million doses of Pfizer vaccines donated to Malaysia in July, the U.S. government provided RM3.5 million to boost COVID-19 testing capacity in Sabah and another RM2 million for ambulance donations and other support to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) in Sabah and Sarawak last year.
The United States will continue to work together with partners in Sabah in promoting Sabah’s security and prosperity. In his meeting with Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Dato’ Abang Iskandar bin Abang Hashim, Ambassador McFeeters highlighted the U.S. commitment to security cooperation in Sabah and discussed shared priorities to combat terrorism, trafficking in persons, and wildlife trafficking.
Ambassador McFeeters also met with Kota Kinabalu Mayor Puan Noorliza Awang Alip to discuss the city’s response to the ongoing pandemic, in addition to expressing deep appreciation to DBKK for their continuous support for the Embassy’s outreach activities in the city, including America Days and other musical and cultural programming.
In meetings with officials from Sabah Parks, the Sabah Wildlife Department, and other environmentally focused NGOs, the Ambassador shared the U.S. government’s focus on the climate crisis and desire to support Malaysia in its efforts to overcome this challenge. Through the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the U.S. Embassy has provided assistance to protect biodiversity that is vital for Sabah’s environmental health and tourism industry with a US$1 million grant to provide training on combating wildlife trafficking.
Ambassador McFeeters also met with Sabah-based civil society organizations working on human rights issues including SUHAKAM, Sabah Human Rights Center, and Advocates for Non-discrimination and Access to Knowledge. They discussed a range of topics including ensuring freedom of expression, working together to combat trafficking in persons, and the importance of protecting the rights of stateless individuals in Sabah. The U.S. Embassy recently launched a capacity building program to strengthen anti-trafficking organizations in Malaysia, including those in Sabah.
Finally, Ambassador McFeeters had the opportunity to learn about Sabah’s history and cultural diversity through a virtual tour with Sabahan alumni of U.S. government exchange programs. The interactive session also introduced Ambassador McFeeters to Sabah’s unique cuisine. Ambassador McFeeters appreciated the opportunity to “visit” Sabah and looks forward to visiting in person as soon as conditions allow.
Other examples of the U.S. partnership in Sabah include:
- On August 19, Ambassador McFeeters launched the second cohort of the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs in Malaysia, which includes 10 participants from Sabah. The program aims to equip women with the tools and skills needed to create and grow their businesses.
- Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) hosts the U.S. Embassy’s American Corner (AC) in Sabah. Through AC programs at UMS, Sabahans can learn more about the United States. AC Sabah is especially focused on environmental programs and will continue to host programs related to topics including climate change, biodiversity, and wildlife conservation.
- 40 high-achieving, economically disadvantaged students from SMK St. Patrick in Tawau are participating in the U.S. Embassy’s Access Leadership program to empower students to become future leaders through intensive English classes and service-learning activities.
- The United States is providing 18 ScanEagle Tactical Unmanned Aerial systems worth approximately USD $48 million to be used by the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN). As of August 2021, 12 of the aircraft have been delivered to the RMN’s first Unmanned Aerial Unit, 601 Squadron, located in Sepanggar Base, Kota Kinabalu. The last shipment of ScanEagle should be delivered by December 2021. The United States has also funded approximately 54 RMN personnel to travel to Washington State to receive operator, mission planning and maintenance training on the ScanEagle system.
- This October, the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with the Biji-biji Initiative and Me.reka will launch YSEALI Bootcamp 2021: Sparking Digital Action – Borneo Edition. The program will consist of a webinar series, a three-week boot camp, and a mentorship component all designed to empower youth to champion social issues facing communities in Sabah and Sarawak, with a focus on the themes of diversity and inclusion, the environment, and digital equity. More information and the application to join are available here: https://go.usa.gov/xFGfj
- The Portland-Kota Kinabalu sister city partnership was established in 2014 and has facilitated people to people exchanges, especially in areas of environmental conservation, sustainability management and research.
- The USAID-funded PREDICT project in Malaysia collaborated with the Sabah Wildlife Department to study zoonotic disease transmission and pandemic prevention.
Social media posts from the visit:
Introducing #Sabah to Ambassador McFeeters!
Wildlife and Environmental Organzations
Ambassador Virtual Tour & Lunch with Sabah alumni