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PM's visit to Saudi Arabia was a 'huge diplomatic blunder', says KJ

Publish date: Mon, 27 Mar 2023, 07:49 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has described Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's official visit to Saudi Arabia as a 'huge diplomatic blunder'.

The sacked Umno leader was referring to Anwar's failure to secure an audience with King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud or Crown Prince Mohammed Salman Al-Saud during the three-day long official visit.

"I have read the statements issued by Wisma Putra and the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) which provided reasons why there was no meeting between the prime minister and King Salman or with the Crown Prince.

"Whatever the reasons given, this has become a huge diplomatic blunder.

"The prime minister should not proceed with the official visit without a confirmed fixed appointment with King Salman or with the Crown Prince. That is it," Khairy said during the seventh episode of the weekly 'Keluar Sekejap' podcast with former Umno Youth deputy chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan.

Khairy said compounding the situation was that the supposed audience with King Salman and the Crown Prince was mentioned in the press release issued by Wisma Putra when Anwar departed for his official visit to Saudi Arabia.

During the podcast session, Khairy also read the excerpt from the Wisma Putra's media release on Anwar's official visit to Saudi Arabia.

"The press release (by Wisma Putra) stated that the prime minister was scheduled to have an audience with His Majesty King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Crown Prince Mohammed Salman Al-Saud.

"Therefore, the issue over the last minute changes to the date (of the scheduled meeting) should not have arisen.

"This is not an issue if it was a personal visit to the kingdom or a visit to perform the umrah. However, this is an official visit that is being paid for using the tax collected from the people," he said.

Based on his experience arranging for an official visit when he was the minister, Khairy said Anwar should have avoided making the official visit to Saudi Arabia during the first week of the fasting month.

"If you understand the culture of Saudi Arabia, you will not conduct the official visit to the Kingdom during the first week of Ramadan because there is a possibility that the schedule will go 'haywire'.

"I learned that the Saudi Arabian had given the signal (to the prime minister and his entourage) try not to come and come later (to carry out the official visit at a later date) because there is a possibility that the first week of Ramadan will go haywire. And now this has happened.

"I do not know who will take responsibility, but certainly it will be Wisma Putra," he said.

Khairy also took a swipe at Hulu Langat member of parliament Mohd Sany Hamzah who defended Anwar's official visit to Saudi Arabia when the latter was quoted as asking detractors what the country and its people would gain if the prime minister had been invited to enter the Kaaba.

"That is not the point. If the prime minister was invited to enter the Kaaba, this is symbolic and a recognition that you are the guest of the King who is the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques.

"This will translate to 'darjat'(degree) of the visitor or in this case, the prime minister being very high," he said.

Khairy hopes that whoever responsible to make arrangement for prime minister's official visit to be attentive and systematic in the future.

"Although we are not in the government, he represents us. He is our prime minister," he said.

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