I am an ordinary Malaysian, so having Starbucks reserved for me to sit and have coffee with an important figure such as an ambassador is very much unlikely to happen by any standards. However, in a magical turn of events, I was invited by Lee Jiuan Diong together with a few fellow bloggers to have a casual evening coffee session with His Excellency Ensar Eminovic (Ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina to Malaysia). Also hooking me up for the whole event was Hazrita Hatta of Glenreagh Sdn. Bhd. No, I’m not joking!!
Well, people say that an ambassador is an honest man brought up to life to tell good stories about his country, and I can agree to that because from the tales shared by His Excellency, Bosnia seems to be a land full of opportunity and splendor.
The session started off with a small bit of awkwardness because I’ve never met an ambassador before, what more to say a foreign ambassador. I was worried about my dressing, my poor English, and a whole lot of stuff. Despite feeling hugely privileged to be invited to have coffee with the ambassador, but at the same time, I felt ‘stiff’.
Thankfully, Ensar (as he prefers us to address him) was a real sport. He was actually younger than I expected, and was very very humble. His companion for the night, Nordin Abdullah (Managing Director, Glenreagh Sdn. Bhd.) said that Ensar is the youngest ambassador in the South East Asian region, and I guess that explains a lot. It also made me think, at 35, he’s the ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Whhhooaaahhh!!!
The topic of the day was of course: Bosnia-Herzegovina and The Malaysian Global Business Forum which would be held in Kuching this coming November, at the Borneo Convention Centre. My first two questions were: “WHY KUCHING?” and “WHY MAHATHIR?“
Yeah, silly questions, but I was curious.
Ensar immediate response delighted me. He pointed out that as the ambassador to Malaysia, he jurisdiction does not only cover KL or Putrajaya, but the whole of Malaysia, inclusive of Sarawak. He even mentioned about Sarawak’s importance to Malaysia, both politically and economically, while stressing that Sarawak is ‘the other side’ of Malaysia which is very much unique and special in huge ways. He even added that Kuching is a city which has a soul, and he likes what Kuching has to offer and therefore the selection of Kuching was very much anticipated.
The presence of Tun Mahathir on the other hand is to appreciate Tun’s stand in helping Bosnia-Herzegovina ever since their country gained independence. He laments that Mahathir has been, and still is championing the Bosnian cause, and that he is hugely critical in the up-coming of their country since 1992. He even reiterated that Bosnians favor Malaysians to other countries, and this gives Malaysia an upper hand in any business opportunities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Further explanation made me realize that Tun Mahathir is such a prominent figure in Bosnia to the extend that Mahathir is already considered a ‘brand name’. In fact, Mahathir’s popularity initially gives Malaysia high regards among Bosnians while indirectly making Malaysia a preferable partner in any business in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As Ensar put it, “Malaysia is considered to be Bosnia’s best friend”.
So, why is there a need for this Malaysian Global Business Forum-Bosnia?
Well, from what I could collect, the forum is to give ample opportunities to business people from all over the world , most particularly Malaysia toward fostering better trade and therefore creating bigger networking. This particular forum, which I could dub as the BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA FORUM is largely Bosnia’s way of saying “Hey Malaysia, you helped us last time, so now, we would like to help you get some business“. As a matter of fact, Bosnia-Herzegovina sees itself as a good way for Malaysian companies to penetrate the South-East Europe market due to its strategic location and bilateral agreements with numerous European countries.
You see, some of you might think that Bosnia is like any other country in the world, where as it is just one of the many ordinary business partners Malaysia can have. I know, I thought so too.
But then, my perception changed once I realized how Ensar seems to be more Malaysian than I was. He actually takes pride that he is ‘Buatan Malaysia’ (He graduated from the Malaysian Islamic University), and said that many Bosnians, whom have studied in Malaysia share similar pride. Their acceptance of Malaysia extends way beyond borders as he tells off how ex-Bosnian students, whom have studied in Malaysia also celebrate Merdeka on the 31st of August every year in their home country! Yes, I was as shocked when I first heard it. Everybody was.
Even more surprising was the fact that these Bosnian students silently act as small Malaysian ambassadors in Bosnia, as they promote Malaysia to their fellow Bosnians, hence slowly increasing Bosnian tourist and students to Malaysia. Now, how many Malaysians actually do that? I know a few Malaysians whom feel that Malaysia is sort of ‘inadequate’, and here we are, having Bosnians promoting Malaysia as a tourist destination, and a hub for so many things.
With Bosnians obviously having such close bond with Malaysia, it slowly made huge sense why Bosnia-Herzegovina is eager to invite Malaysian business parties to their country for investment. Ensar pleasantly put the whole idea into this phrase: “It has been a one way traffic all this while, so it’s time for Bosnia to open up a new ‘highway’ for the Malaysian-Bosnia relationship. A relationship with mutual benefits“, or in my own words it seems largely to be similar to the phrase: ‘Friends with benefits’.
Seriously, Bosnia-Herzegovina is not about war anymore. It has been almost 20 years since that happened, and they are gearing into a better nation by huge strides. They have the best banking system in South-Eastern Europe. Their tourism industry has been said to be one of the fastest growing in the world and Ensar himself said that ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country which produces more history than it can consume’, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this growth in tourism. They are also anticipating full fledged membership into both the European Union and NATO. They enjoy huge trade agreements as well as Free Trade Agreements with their neighboring countries, and are considered the best option for any country wanting to catapult their business into other countries in Europe.
As a matter of fact, after the coffee session, I wished I was a billionaire which could make a call and say “Hey guys, I want to open up a Malaysian kopitiam franchise in Bosnia-Herzegovina tomorrow.” To bad, I ain’t no billionaire. Even a ‘thousand-aire’ pun tidak =P
Well, this is a long serving post about Bosnia and I can say I am still astounded by His Excellency Ensar Eminovic’s humbleness and pride of being ‘Made in Malaysia’. I am actually looking forward to attending The Malaysian Global Business Forum-Bosnia at BCCK on the 9th – 11th of November this year, but sadly… the price of RM980 per delegate is hugely steep for someone like me, despite the price actually being modestly low for such a huge event. Nonetheless, the session with the ambassador himself is very much a thrilling experience, and I wished most ministers and delegates could be like him, humble and easy going.