While Anwar did not meet the monarch, it’s more humiliating for Muhyiddin to fly more than 6,000 kilometres to Riyadh only to meet the monarch via Zoom.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, lost all his Western friends with a snap of a finger following the brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA concluded that MBS had given the order for the killing, where the Saudi Arabian dissident was butchered, and his body was dismembered and disposed of.
As a result, the Saudi’s de-facto ruler was sidelined during the official “family photo” of world leaders at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30, 2018. All the Western leaders ignored him, pretended as if he did not exist. They refused to mingle with him, let alone extend handshakes. Some of his counterparts shared a word or two, but that was all he got.
He was the only Arab leader in the G20 and already stood out in his traditional dress amid a sea of suits. Those who spoke to him briefly included leaders from India, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa. Even President Donald Trump shunned him. Western leaders like British PM Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron lectured him about accountability.
However, Chinese President Xi Jinping met and shook hands with MBS. The Saudi Crown Prince’s best moment was when Russian President Vladimir Putin saw him and exchanged a high-five and a handshake and laughed heartily as they took seats next to each other. Nevertheless, MBS was made to stand at the far edge during the group photo and ignored. He then quickly exited the stage.
It was slightly better in 2019. Trump, who visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his first foreign trip since taking office, had tried to shepherd Crown Prince Mohammed with praises instead of ignoring him. However, many still remember MBS as an international pariah. So, the prince spent most of his time that year rebuilding his tattered reputation.
MBS visited China, India, Pakistan and Japan as part of his Asia tour as Western leaders tried their best to avoid him. But the planned visit in 2019 to Malaysia and Indonesia to meet Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo respectively had to be postponed at the eleventh hour, before scrapped because the Asian leaders refused to rub shoulders with him.
The Saudi crown prince, like other world leaders, did not travel in 2020 for obvious reasons. He notably stayed away from both the G20 summit in Rome in October 2021 (despite Saudi having held the rotating presidency of the G20 in the previous year) and from COP26 in Glasgow in November, in part because he wanted to avoid being snubbed in public by President Biden.
When Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia’s first backdoor prime minister, visited Saudi on March 2021, he was met with the crown prince. Make no mistake – Muhyiddin was invited by King Salman largely because MBS was not only incredibly free, but desperately wanted to project an image that he still had friends – any friends – especially after more than a year of global lockdown due to Covid-19.
During Biden’s first year in office, he refused to speak with Crown Prince Mohammed, the de-facto leader of the kingdom. The new US president who defeated Trump then released the Central Intelligence Agency’s conclusion that MBS had ordered the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He promised to make a pariah out of Saudi Arabia over the gruesome murder.
It was only after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022, leading to energy crisis as a result of skyrocketing oil and gas prices that all the Western leaders, including Joe Biden, shamelessly rushed to meet the Saudi Crown Prince. Despite Biden’s begging and fist-bump diplomacy, MBS has refused to pump more crude oil to lower the price as part of payback.
Bersatu or Malaysian United Indigenous Party is scraping the bottom of the barrel when the opposition party tries to compare PM Anwar Ibrahim and ex-PM Muhyiddin Yassin in a popularity contest over who was more successful in their diplomacy based on trips to Saudi Arabia. Silly Bersatu has declared victory in TikTok because Anwar did not manage to meet with King Salman.
While Anwar did not meet the monarch, it’s more humiliating for Muhyiddin to fly more than 6,000 kilometres to Riyadh only to meet the monarch via Zoom. What type of respect or victory that Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin is claiming if the Saudi King did not even want to meet him in person when he was already on Saudi soil? He would have saved lots of taxpayers’ money by having Zoom in Malaysia.
Supporters of Muhyiddin argued that unlike Anwar, Muhyiddin was granted access to the “Kaabah”, calling it a rare honour given only to heads of government and eminent Muslim figures. In truth, any Muslim can enter the Kaabah. However, due to crowd issue, those who are authorized by the guardians of the monument, the Al-Shaibi family who have held the only key for 15 centuries, have this privilege.
Sure, Muhyiddin had entered the Kaabah. Yet, it seems the God was not impressed with him as the so-called rare honour failed to help him win the 15th General Election. And despite all the bragging about endorsement from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Bersatu president has been charged for corruption and money laundering in the RM600 billion Covid scandal.
Clearly, those who were granted access to the Kaabah are not necessarily good Muslims. Likewise, it does not mean those who did not manage to get access to the stone temple are bad Muslims. Najib Razak too was able to enter Kaabah in January 2018, a few months before he lost spectacularly in the May 2018 General Election and sent to prison in August 2022 for corruption.
Muhyiddin’s gullible supporters should be careful not to jinx their corrupt leader. It appears to be divine intervention when he lost power some five months after visiting the Kaabah, the same way Najib suffered the exact fate in 2018. And if crooked Najib is any indicator, the traitor and corrupt Muhyiddin could go to the same prison that Najib is currently enjoying.
In terms of commerce and trade, the total bilateral trade in 2022 between both nations were merely US$10.26 billion (RM45.52 billion). In comparison, China and Malaysia’s bilateral trade hit a record high of US$203.6 billion in the same year. Aside from ASEAN, Malaysia’s top five trading partners were China, US, European Union and Japan – representing 67% of the country’s total trade.
No matter how successful Muhyiddin’s previous trip to Saudi that his minions try to trumpet to humiliate Anwar, the fact remains that the bilateral trade accounts for less than 5% of Malaysia-China total trade and just 1.54% of the country’s total trade of RM2.85 trillion (US$648 billion) in 2022. So, there’s nothing to shout about in terms of trade agreements signed by Muhyiddin.
To be fair, the confusion over the availability of Saudi Crown Prince to meet PM Anwar shows the incompetency of Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir and the lack of coordination of Wisma Putra. That’s the problem when you appoint clueless UMNO leaders in charge of foreign affairs. And that’s the problem when you don’t sack little Napoleons in the civil service who tried to sabotage the new Unity Government.
Every Tom, Dick and hamster knew it would be a disaster to arrange a diplomatic visit at the beginning of Ramadan. Even in Dubai, people were basically working only half a day for the entire fasting month. There was no issue for Anwar and his wife to perform the Umrah in Saudi. But it was “horrible timing” to schedule their visit to also meet the monarch.
Anwar’s trip could have been rushed at a short notice or MBS could have made last minute changes due to Ramadan, which was usual. Had the premier agreed to extend his visit by two more days, he would not have been mocked and ridiculed by Muhyiddin’s fans. But it would also mean all his schedules would be in jeopardy. He did the right thing by declining the Crown Prince’s offer to stay.
The 10th Prime Minister’s busy schedule included a breaking-of-fast event with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) on Saturday (March 25) as well as working visits to Cambodia (March 27) and China (March 29). It’s not easy to get an appointment with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has a long list of visitors, including meeting Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on March 27.
Malaysia’s priority is to improve the economy and trade with vital trading partners like China, not entering Kaabah and meeting King Salman for religious glory. Saudi will not “donate” RM2.6 billion to help Malaysians put food on the table. There were very little investment or products to trade between Saudi and Malaysia. On the other hand, India and China are the two biggest importer of Malaysian palm oil.
There’s little doubt Bersatu is desperately trying to divert attention from corruption charges slapped on its leaders, especially party president Mahiaddin (Muhyiddin). They are playing the religious card, creating a false narrative to hoodwink ignorant Malays into thinking that Muhyiddin was more Muslim than Anwar because he was allowed to enter the Kaabah and managed to meet MBS.
If indeed Muhyiddin was a highly respected Muslim leader as claimed by his loyalists, can they explain why he was not allowed to bring along PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang during his visit to the kingdom in March 2021? Hadi was appointed by PM Muhyiddin as Special Envoy to the Middle East with ministerial rank, but embarrassingly, the Islamist party president was refused a visa to enter Saudi.
PM Anwar can always re-visit Saudi at a later stage after Ramadan to meet King Salman and MBS. But can crooked Muhyiddin do the same, let alone enter the Kaabah, after his corruption and money laundering are exposed? There was no legitimacy issue because King Salman was among the first world leaders who congratulated Anwar Ibrahim the same day (Nov 24, 2022) he was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister. – Finance Twitter