It was reported that the Saudi Arabia king in 2009, gave US President Obama, the First Lady and daughter gifts worth US190,000. The gifts given to the First Lady itself in the form of jewelries and other valuable and exotic gifts was US132,000 and I suppose the remaining was for the US President and the daughter.
In the US, there is such a law that governs the ownership of some gifts given to the US President and their family members that has to be handed over to the government, and to be kept at the National Achieves. I have no idea what ‘some of the gifts’ here means, and I suppose gifts given to the US President and his family by visiting heads of states, or during the US President’s official state visit overseas is deemed as having to give it to the state, and the President merely acting as a representative of the nation. In other words, the gifts are not given to Obama and his family as individuals; rather as a representative of the nation they represent. This is quite logical because the post of the US President is ‘given’ to Obama by the people, and that post is merely for a maximum of terms.
I do not know whether such a law or a policy exist in Malaysia. We have a King and a Queen. We also have a Prime Minister and a First Lady (so they say). We have many Ministers and Deputy Ministers. We have top civil servants, military and police. All such people goes abroad on visits (by invitation or otherwise) and surely they are given gifts, though not the likes of what the Saudi Arabia king gave to President Obama and his family. But these are gifts, and are they personal gifts or one that is considered to belong to the state or department? Honestly, I do not know, but from what I know, and in the absence of any law or policy, I presume the recipients of such gifts would assume it to be theirs. This is not wrong, I suppose.
I am told that former PM Tun Dr. Mahathir received many gifts during his 22 years as PM, and I am not sure if any record is made to list the type of gifts. But I do know that Tun Dr. Mahathir has a show room built in Langkawi to exhibit some of the gifts that he had received. However, I do not know whether the exhibits are still his, or has it been handed over to the government. This is a noble way of saying that “I did receive the gifts on behalf of all Malaysians and I would like it to be seen and shared by all’.
Now our First Lady has been on an official visit to Oman and is presently in Bangladesh, with an entourage of ladies. Being classified as an official visit, I suppose it is an all paid visit. The itinerary looks like any other official state visits by our national leaders, where the First Lady made calls on state officials. It is therefore not to be a pleasure trip, but an official one. And I am quite sure there will be many gifts showered by the host to the First Lady and members of her entourage.
Now, if the First Lady and her entourage did receive gifts, and that the visit has an official status, how then would you like to regard such gifts? I’ll leave it to you for an answer.
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