KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Detractors are wrong to claim that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent official visit to Saudi Arabia was not fruitful just because he did not meet King Salman Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts.
One of them, Dr Mazlan Ali, senior lecturer of Perdana Centre, Razak Technology and Informatics Faculty at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), said that most importantly the prime minister had made the three-day visit at the invitation of the highest leadership of Saudi Arabia.
“If critics allege that King Salman and the Crown Prince seemed not to have welcomed Anwar, why then did Anwar get the invitation? And that visit received the full commitment of the Saudi Arabian conglomerates.
“This shows that although there was no audience with the Saudi Arabian King and Crown Prince, it did not mean that there was no proper acknowledgement of Anwar. It was just that circumstances did not allow the audience to take place,” he told Bernama.
He said it was not out of the ordinary for King Salman, the Custodian of Islam’s Two Holy Sites, to change his schedule, especially in the month of Ramadan.
The prime minister himself had explained that he had been asked to extend his stay in Saudi Arabia but could not meet the request because of his prior commitments in Malaysia and tight schedule.
“It is normal for the Saudi monarch to make changes to His Majesty’s schedule during Ramadan. And they (Saudi Arabian leaders) had asked the prime minister to extend his visit by two days. But the prime minister could not do so because he had to attend an event (breaking of fast) with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and was scheduled to make a visit to Cambodia,” he said.
Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia’s School of Politics and International Relations shared Dr Mazlan’s view, saying last-minute changes to the itinerary of a visit were normal, especially if the host country had to attend to more urgent matters.
Furthermore, Anwar’s three-day visit was relatively short, he said.
“It is not unusual if there were circumstances or emergencies forcing a change in schedule at the last minute,” he added.
Mohd Azizuddin said the visit should not be dismissed as a failure because Saudi Arabia had given Anwar an official welcome, with the presence of the military.
“The prime minister was asked to stay for two more days to have the meeting (audience) but he could not do so due to his tight schedule, which includes visits to Cambodia and China,” he said.
Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff, Community Communications Department (J-KOM) director-general in the Prime Minister’s Department, said in a statement that Anwar’s visit had achieved success, even in economic terms, despite his not meeting the country’s top leaders.
He questioned what the opposition meant when they labelled the visit as a failure.
“Is it a failure just because Anwar did not get to meet King Salman and the Crown Prince or are there more substantive arguments? In this matter, the prime minister has given his reasons,” he said.
Meanwhile, security and political analyst Dr Noor Nirwandy Mat Noordin, said the visit was successful because Anwar’s visit had raised relations with Saudi Arabia to another level.
“The prime minister has established stronger diplomatic ties with a strategic power in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia,” said Dr Noor Nirwandy, who is from the Media and Information Psywar Studies Centre of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
Dr Noor Nirwandy said such cooperation and international recognition was essential for Malaysia to build confidence in the country and its diplomacy in public relations.