Malaysia is known for its diverse, multicultural society and its incredible economic growth. The Southeast Asian country only started its rapid economic development in the 1990s and has become a global player. A major goal for its government is to achieve the status of a developed nation by 2020. migration business talked with the Malaysian ambassador Dato Ibrahim bin Abdullah about his career, current developments and his experience in Germany.
Mr. Abdullah, how long have you been in Germany?
I have been here for two and a half years. Usually, an assigment only lasts three years, so my time here could end fairly soon.
Can you tell us something about your professional background?
I studied economics in our capital Kuala Lumpur. One of my first jobs was within the ministry of finance. There have always been only two fields which really interested me: finance and diplomatic affairs. Luckily, I ended up in both. I worked for five years in the ministry of finance before I managed to get into the ministry of foreign affairs. But it never crossed my mind to become an ambassador one day when I started working there.
You have already been working in Argentinia, Japan, Nigeria, Syria and other countries. Which assignment did you find most challenging?
The job as an ambassador changes from country to country. One of my most interesting assignments was in Sudan because we had just opened our embassy there in 1999. We had to build everything up and start from the very beginning.
In Malaysia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and other religious groups are living closely together. Are there any problems arising from this fact?
As long as you don’t try to mix religion into politics things will be fine. But problems arise when people try to manipulate religion and use it as a political weapon. In Malaysia things have been good, but once the opposition tries to use religion as a tool things may not work out well.
What are your goals for your current assingment here in Germany?
My work here focuses on building and strengthening relationships in the private sector. Of course, we want German companies to invest in Malaysia, but we are also looking into opportunities for more Malaysian investors to join venture with German companies. Our country is currently ranking at a middle income level. We want to become a higher income nation by moving more into high tech industries, not necessarily by locating them into our country, but by investing and by teaming up with them. To inspire economic collaborations is a primary goal for me.
What surprised you when you first came to Germany?
The fact that gender equality is still an issue in Germany surprised me. I had thought that a developed nation would have no problems concerning equal opportunities between men and women. But when I arrived in Germany, I realised that the women here are not equally treated, for example at the management level or when it comes to equal salaries in companies.
The function as an ambassador requires regular relocations and a lot of adaptation. How does your family cope with this issue?
In the past I have been traveling on my own, which is much easier. But in Germany I adopted a son. My marriage did not work out, nevertheless, I always wanted a child which you can bring up on your own. My son is two years and two months old and has been here with me since October 2012.
Do you still find some time for your hobbies?
O yes, generally over the weekend I play golf. I enjoy going out on the weekends, especially when it is not so cold.
Thank you for the interview.
The interview was conducted by Katharina Horn.