This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Nikesh Mehta

Counsellor for Foreign Policy and Security

Part of Stay Ahead of the Games UK in Malaysia

29th October 2013 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Breaking Barriers With The Commonwealth Games Baton

One of my favourite things about being a diplomat is having the opportunity to represent the UK at fun and unusual events. This past weekend was a good example: I attended the opening ceremony of the Asian Youth Para Games; helped to launch UNICEF’s ‘Disable to Enable’ campaign in Malaysia; and got to hold the Commonwealth Games 2014 Queen’s Baton!

QBR Team with the Baton in front of the Petronas TowersThe Queen’s Baton Relay Team arrived in Malaysia on Saturday morning and was met by HRH Tan Sri Tunku Imran in his dual role of President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM). The Baton carrying a message from HM The Queen to the Commonwealth began its epic journey on 9 October 2013 and will visit 70 nations over the next 288 days before arriving in time for the opening ceremony in Glasgow.

The Baton’s visit coincided with the opening of the 3rd Asian Youth Para Games. This multi-sport event for disabled athletes between the ages of 15 and 19 years brought together over 1200 participants and officials from 30 countries. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet many of the participants before the formal ceremony got under way. I was struck by their stories and their determination to succeed. I hope the Thailand team didn’t mind us photo-bombing their shot!

BHC with Thailand Para Team

The organisers kindly agreed to allow the Queen’s Baton to be paraded in the ceremony by a group of able-bodied and disabled children. The children then passed the Baton to the Malaysian Minister for Youth and Sport, Khairy Jamaluddin. The Minister made an impassioned, off-the-cuff speech emphasising that disabled athletes often have to work harder that their able-bodied counterparts to succeed. He said that it was his personal mission to ensure parity between able-bodied and disabled athletes in Malaysia. It was great also to see Sir Philip Craven, the British Head of the International Paralympic Committee, at the event.

The following morning, the Baton was carried around a circuit of the Lake Gardens in a Family Fun Run. Ten hardy souls from the High Commission braved the early start and the Malaysian sun to show their support. Two members of our team also took part in a blind football match at the Children’s Carnival.

BHC Fun Run TeamAfter the Fun Run, I joined Tunku Imran, Tan Sri Datuk Dr. M Jegathesan, the honorary medical advisor to the CGF, Raveen and Andrea to launch UNICEF Malaysia’s  ‘Disable to Enable’ campaign. The campaign was designed to increase the public’s awareness of the rights of disabled children in Malaysia.

Launching UNICEF's Disable to Enable CampaignIn conjunction with the Carnival, the High Commission funded SCOPE Group Asia’s Human Library. This is a library where members of the public were invited to borrow a ‘living book’ in order to challenge their prejudices and to help reduce stigma surrounding marginalised groups within Malaysian society. I spoke to Norela Mokhtar, a 49 year old Muslim woman who has lived with HIV for 13 years. She told me her moving story about contracting the disease from her ex-husband who was a drug user and how she dealt with people’s reaction to her. She said that she now believed that it was her life’s work to raise awareness of HIV in Malaysia and to support infected women who have been ostracised by their families.

Speaking to Norela MokhtarThe last event in the Baton’s Malaysian journey was a reception for the Commonwealth community at the High Commissioner’s residence. Ray Kyles, Acting High Commissioner and a proud Glaswegian, gave an impassioned speech about how the city had transformed in recent decades and his confidence that Glasgow would put on a great Games. The Baton Relay Team presented a piece of Scottish granite to Tunku Imran as a memento of their visit. And, after trying for two days, I finally got my hands
on the Baton!

Finally, my thanks to Louis Rosa and his Baton Relay Team for bringing the spirit of Glasgow to Malaysia and to our partners in OCM and UNICEF for making the visit such a success.

About Nikesh Mehta

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen…

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign
Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in
January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen the British
Government’s relationship with Malaysia on issues such as Counter
Terrorism, Counter Proliferation and Transnational Crime.
Nik joined the Foreign Office in 2002 after nearly three years
working as a teacher in rural Japan. His first experience of culture
shock was trying to explain why he was vegetarian to a group of
sceptical Japanese students. Nik spent a year on the NATO desk in London
before serving in the Coalition Provisional Authority as the Political
Officer for southern Iraq based in Basrah.
In 2004, Nik was appointed as Second Secretary (Political) in Kampala
primarily responsible for reporting on conflict with the Lord’s
Resistance Army, the ensuing humanitarian crisis and the subsequent
peace talks in Juba. The posting was particularly poignant for Nik’s
family as his mother, a Ugandan-Asian, was expelled from the country by
Idi Amin’s forces in 1972.
For the last four years, Nik has served in the Foreign Office’s
Counter Terrorism Department, most recently as Head of the Guantanamo
and Rendition Issues Team.
Nik is in Kuala Lumpur with his Australian wife, Anna, and their
three year old son, Arran. You can follow him on Twitter @nikmehta33.

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