‘OUR PEO­PLE ARE SAFE’

THE prime min­is­ter says the North Korean govern­ment has given an as­sur­ance that Malaysians in the coun­try are safe and ‘free to go about their daily lives’. He em­pha­sises that KL will not sever ties with Py­ongyang, but fo­cus on ne­go­ti­a­tions to se­cure the

New Straits Times - - Front Page - THARANYA ARUMUGAM KUALA LUMPUR tharanya@nst.com.my

TWO MALAYSIAN EM­PLOY­EES OF UN AL­LOWED TO LEAVE I WISH I COULD LIS­TEN TO HER VOICE RIGHT NOW, SAYS SIS­TER OF EM­BASSY OF­FI­CIAL

THE North Korean govern­ment has given its as­sur­ance that all Malaysians in that coun­try are safe and able to con­tinue with their daily rou­tines.

In re­veal­ing this yes­ter­day, Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak also pledged that the Malaysian govern­ment would do “ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble” to en­sure they re­turn home safely.

“Even though they are not al­lowed to leave the coun­try, the North Korean govern­ment has as­sured us of their safety and they are free to go about their daily lives,” he wrote on Face­book.

Na­jib posted the up­date on his Face­book ac­count fol­low­ing a phone con­ver­sa­tion with coun­sel­lor at the Malaysian em­bassy in North Korea Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain .

“I would like to up­date that he (Nor Azrin), his fam­ily along with all of the other Malaysians in North Korea are safe, Al­ham­dulil­lah.

“The whole of Malaysia is pray­ing for them.”

He stressed that the govern­ment would work on reach­ing the best so­lu­tion for the is­sue.

“Let us all pray for the best. I have asked mosques na­tion­wide to per­form so­lat ha­jat, to pray for the Malaysians in North Korea. May Al­lah ease our deal­ings.”

Diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Malaysia and North Korea soured fol­low­ing the high pro­file mur­der of Kim Jong-nam at klia2 on Feb 13.

Dis­parag­ing re­marks made against Malaysia led to the ex­pul­sion of the North Korean am­bas­sador here, with Py­ongyang re­spond­ing in like man­ner.

On Tues­day, the reclu­sive state took it one step fur­ther, bar­ring Malaysians from leav­ing the coun­try, a move which was re­cip­ro­cated here.

The For­eign Min­istry said 11 Malaysians were in North Korea — nine em­bassy staff and their fam­ily mem­bers and two who worked for the United Na­tions World Food Pro­gramme WFP).

The two UN em­ploy­ees, how­ever, were al­lowed to leave Py­ongyang and ar­rived safely in Bei­jing yes­ter­day.

Na­jib, in an ear­lier Face­book post, said the duo were Stella Lim and Nyanaprakash Mu­niandy.

In con­firm­ing their ar­rival in Bei­jing, the UN, in a state­ment, said: “The staff mem­bers are in­ter­na­tional civil ser­vants and not rep­re­sen­ta­tives of their na­tional govern­ment.

“They work for WFP’s pro­grammes in (North) Korea.”

Na­jib had on Wed­nes­day ruled out sev­er­ing ties with North Korea and said the govern­ment would seek to ne­go­ti­ate to se­cure the re­lease of Malaysian cit­i­zens there.

“Diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Malaysia and North Korea will not be sev­ered, as we need to con­tinue com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them to find a so­lu­tion.

“In­syaAl­lah (God will­ing), this sit­u­a­tion will be re­solved and our peo­ple who are de­tained in North Korea will soon be able to re­turn home safely,” he said in a blog post.

Na­jib, how­ever, had also said the govern­ment will re­main firm in its ap­proach to­wards North Korea.

He had said since this was a sen­si­tive is­sue, he could only dis­close that the govern­ment was in the process of es­tab­lish­ing the rea­sons and mo­tives be­hind Py­ongyang’s ac­tions.

“We will not re­lent from our firm ap­proach.

“Yes­ter­day (Tues­day), the emer­gency Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing that I con­vened up­held our de­ci­sion not to al­low any North Kore­ans to leave Malaysia.

“This is a sen­si­tive is­sue. There­fore, the govern­ment has de­cided that all ne­go­ti­a­tions and dis­cus­sions will be con­ducted be­hind closed doors.” Page 1 pic: Coun­sel­lor at the Malaysian em­bassy in North Korea Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain’s mother-in-law, Maz­nah Ad­nan, pray­ing for her daugh­ter and fam­ily’s safe re­turn at her home in Sitiawan, Perak, yes­ter­day.

KIM JONG-NAM AS­SAS­SI­NA­TION

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