A Farewell to Malaysia

Ambassador and Mrs. Keith

On March 15, I will be leaving Malaysia, to take up new duties as Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

I want everyone to know how much my family and I have appreciated Malaysia’s warmth and hospitality over the past 2 ½ years.  Kuala Lumpur has been one of my favorite Foreign Service postings in my nearly thirty-year career in public service, and I have had the chance to make some very dear friends here.  I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia at a very important time of revitalization in our bilateral relationship.  Malaysia’s continued success is important to America.  And I send my best wishes to all of the Malaysian people.

Terima Kasih, dan

Jumpa Lagi


Priaviday Valthu

U.S. Navy Sailors and Mrs. Keith “Paint the Town”

Volunteers (in yellow) from USS Pinckney at Rumah Ozanam. My wife Jan is fourth from the right. Second from right is Mr. Ivan Christie, of the Rotary Club of Pantai Valley, who coordinated the COMREL activities.

Volunteers from the USS Nimitz posing with children from the Juara Home after a long morning of painting the outside of the home.

USS Nimitz


U.S. Navy sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and her companion vessel USS Pinckney were ‘painting the town’ in recent days, both figuratively and literally. The supercarrier USS Nimitz pulled into Port Klang on Sunday, February 7, on a scheduled port call, accompanied by the USS Pinckney.  During four days of shore leave, dozens of sailors from the Nimitz and the Pinckney traded their tour maps and cameras for paintbrushes and brooms, to volunteer for community service activities at several homes for children and the elderly in the Klang Valley.  My wife Jan joined them for a day of service at Rumah Ozanam, where they spent a long hot morning painting.   Taking part in community service is a regular thing for U.S. Navy servicemen and women during their time away from home (the Nimitz has been away from its home port of San Diego since July 2009)  Navy personnel do COMREL activities even while in the USA, and global community service and compassion are among U.S. Navy core principles. 

It is easy to be a little cynical and see what they are doing as just “PR.”  But the sharing, caring, and hard work that takes place through COMREL activities mean more than doing some maintenance and playing a little basketball with the kids.  Everyone gets something out of it, especially the sailors, who are often away at sea for long periods, far from family and friends.  Through volunteer work, they learn about the culture and the people of the places they are visiting.  And the hard work they willingly undertake provides welcome assistance for many non-profits.   

Some 4,000 young women and men of the US Navy enjoyed three days of shore leave in KL, and most of them spent at least a few hundred dollars here during their stay.  But several dozens of these servicemen and women gave of their time to scrub floors, wield a paintbrush, and reach out to the local community.  And don’t forget, they have all been at sea and away from home and family for many months.  Thank you.  And thank you also, to the Rotary Club of Pantai Valley for their much-appreciated help in arranging volunteer activities for the crews of the USS Nimitz and USS Pinckney.

Happy Chinese New Year, Malaysia!

“I wish a productive Year of the Tiger to everyone in Malaysia.  I hope that as we look to this next year, that everyone in Malaysia, of every race and every religion, can work together in harmony.”

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

James R. Keith

Supporting Global Internet Freedom, Helps Support Freedom Globally

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently delivered a major policy speech on internet freedom.  She affirmed America’s commitment to promoting freedom of expression through the internet, cell phones, and other new media.   Echoing President Obama’s support for peoples’ right to freely access information, Secretary Clinton spoke of how information networks help citizens obtain new facts, hold their governments accountable, generate new ideas, and encourage creativity.  

The fact that I can engage with readers of this blog in a dialogue illustrates the points raised by Secretary Clinton in her speech and underscores the United States’ belief that the free flow of information and ideas is in our own national interest and in the interest of global society.

If you have not seen it, I encourage you to take a look at Secretary Clinton’s speech.  The full text is available here, or you can watch the video of the speech on our U.S. State Department blog, Dipnote

Here are some excerpts from the speech:

  • On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
  • Amid this unprecedented surge in connectivity, we must also recognize that these technologies are not an unmitigated blessing.  These tools are also being exploited to undermine human progress and political rights… Technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.
  • Freedom of expression comes under threat where governments control the democratic tools of television, radio, access to newsprint, and internet.   Currently, there is not an internet technology strong enough or adaptable enough to provide openness in any place where a government is trying to shut it down.   
  • Today, we find an urgent need to protect these freedoms on the digital frontiers of the 21st century. 
  • The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic, and technological resources necessary to advance these freedoms… We are well placed to seize the opportunities that come with interconnectivity. And as the birthplace for so many of these technologies, we have a responsibility to see them used for good. To do that, we need to develop our capacity for 21st century statecraft.
  • We feel strongly that principles like information freedom aren’t just good policy, not just somehow connected to our national values, but they are universal and they’re also good for business.
  • By advancing this agenda, we align our principles, our economic goals, and our strategic priorities. We need to work toward a world in which access to networks and information brings people closer together and expands the definition of the global community.

In the spirit of promoting enhanced global connectivity and the free exchange of ideas online, I invite you to express yourself by posting a response.  Please feel free to share your impressions of Secretary Clinton’s speech or your views on internet freedom, in general.  

I look forward to your comments!


My family and I have enjoyed following the exciting inaugural season of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), rooting fervently for the KL Dragons. All the games we’ve seen have been fiercely contested and competitive. Since the beginning of the season the Dragons have really developed team chemistry, balancing some dead-eyed outside shooters with great ball-handlers who slash fearlessly to the basket. Moreover, the game-time experience and stadium atmosphere are electric, with packed crowds of Malaysians and foreign fans joining together to cheer for the teams, participate in half-time fan giveaways, and enjoy entertainment like guest singers from Malaysian Idol. Finally, the players themselves are friendly and make themselves available for pictures and chats with the fans.

As I’ve followed the ABL, I want to highlight the partnerships of American companies like GE to support the league and basketball in Malaysia. After Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, Chairman of the ABL, announced the creation of the first international basketball league in Southeast Asia, GE stepped up as the ABL’s title sponsor for the 2009/10 season running from October to February. This sponsorship has provided an invaluable boost to the ABL and to the development of young basketball talent in the region. GE’s involvement with the ABL is a great example of how American companies in Malaysia are giving back to the community.  GE’s league sponsorship is most appropriate from my point of view as this concept, carried out in the sports world in this case, is entirely consistent with the broader effort to build a market of 550-600 million people in Southeast Asia.  Southeast Asian nations really make their mark on the world stage when they speak and act cohesively.  The ABL is just one more way in which the entrepreneurial leaders in Malaysia are helping to build a genuine sense of Southeast Asian community.  My hat is off to all those who conceived and implemented the idea of an ABL.  Go Dragons!

For more information, check out : www.aseanbasketballleague.com and http://www.kldragons.com/

“Help for Haiti”

We are assisting earthquake-stricken Haiti

On January 12 a severe earthquake struck in Haiti, devastating the capital city, Port au Prince, as well as surrounding areas. The American Red Cross now estimates that 3 million people are affected by the disaster. While the full measure of human suffering from this earthquake is not yet known, we do know that the survivors need immediate help. The U.S. has mounted what we are calling a “swift, aggressive, and coordinated” response to Haiti’s disaster through the U.S. Department of State, the American Red Cross, the U.S. Army, Coast Guard, and other organizations. A 72-member canine search and rescue team arrived in Port au Prince the day after the quake. The USS Carl Vinson was dispatched to Haiti, expected to arrive January 14, and approximately 2,000 U.S. Marines and 3,000 U.S. Army personnel from Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg respectively are on their way to help. At the request of President Obama, former Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have also agreed to assist with coordination of relief efforts. Secretary Hillary Clinton returned to Washington from Honolulu, cancelling a ten day trip to Asia so that she could coordinate the U.S. response to the disaster.

Not only is the United States commitment to Haiti growing, but the international commitment is as well. As of January 14, at least 31 countries have provided meaningful assistance that has already reached Haiti or is on its way. U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, has said that fast action and close coordination among the United States, United Nations and other actors on the ground will be key to ensuring that Haiti will emerge from this disaster and resume its road to recovery. I received information today that some of my U.S. Embassy colleagues in Haiti have perished in the earthquake or are still missing. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and to all of those affected by this disaster.

For more information about earthquake relief efforts, visit: http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/ha/earthquake/index.htm

“Happy Holidays to you, Malaysia!”

Ambassador and Mrs. Keith

Ambassador and Mrs. Keith

It is nearly a year since President Obama took office, and we are no longer just talking about, but actually realizing the potential of the relationship between Malaysia and the United States.  Looking toward the New Year, it is my hope that we will see more and more opportunities to bring the American and the Malaysian people closer together. 

I want to wish all the Malaysian people a safe and prosperous New Year.  We look forward not only to our own (Western) New Year, but also to Chinese New Year.  Now is a time for us to look to the future with a sense of confidence and optimism.  I have great confidence in the U.S.-Malaysia relationship, and am very pleased to see that President Obama and Prime Minister Najib have established a strong foundation for us to move forward together.