Frankly Speaking: How are Saudi-Malaysian bilateral relations faring?

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Updated 06 May 2024
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Frankly Speaking: How are Saudi-Malaysian bilateral relations faring?

  • Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim highlights close alignment between Malaysia’s Madani economic framework and Saudi Vision 2030, resulting in a “win-win” for both countries
  • Says ties have experienced “phenomenal advance” in terms of trade and investment, sheds light on his friendship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

DUBAI: Saudi-Malaysia bilateral relations have experienced “phenomenal advance” over the past decade in terms of trade and investment, resulting in a “win-win” for both countries, Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister of Malaysia, has said.

Speaking to Katie Jensen, host of the Arab News current affairs program “Frankly Speaking,” during a visit to Riyadh for a special meeting of the World Economic Forum last week, Anwar said he would like to see accelerated deepening of ties.

Even compared with six months ago, when he attended the Gulf Cooperation Council’s joint summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Riyadh in October, Anwar said the “two-way traffic” of investment had advanced.




Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he would like to see accelerated deepening of ties between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. (AN photo)

“It was a phenomenal advance and improvement in terms of trade, investments, not only in oil and gas by Aramco, but also by leading Saudi companies,” he said in a wide-ranging interview covering development, diplomacy and the fight against corruption.

“A lot of Malaysian companies, too, are involved here, of course, in a smaller scale, in many of NEOM’s and in some of the energy transition programs. And I’m pleased that this two-way traffic is advancing.

“In my discussions with the crown prince, I would like to urge that this be further accelerated because that would be a win-win for both countries.”

Anwar’s personal friendship with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman is part of the reason for this burgeoning bilateral relationship, which has in turn bolstered the GCC-ASEAN partnership.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in Riyadh on October 22, 2023. (SPA/File)

“I must say that I’m fortunate because Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman considered me as a friend,” said Anwar, who met the crown prince during his visit for the World Economic Forum.

“We do exchange notes from time to time and he personally requested me to be present, and gives me a good opportunity to express some of the concerns and more so to be focused on economic development, on the relationships that it covers, particularly in terms of trade and investments.

“And I think he’s very forthcoming, he’s serious, he’s very determined and he’s tough. And that is to me a credit, particularly when it comes to bilateral relations. Enough rhetoric, enough pious platitudes. We want action and effective economic programs among our countries and the region, which include, therefore, ASEAN and the GCC.”


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Saudi Arabia and Malaysia also share much in common in terms of their respective economic development programs, which Anwar says are closely aligned.

While the Kingdom recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of its social reform and economic diversification agenda — Vision 2030 — Malaysia is likewise making strides with its own development plan — the Madani economic framework.

Launched in July 2023, less than a year after Anwar became prime minister, the framework aims to position Malaysia among the world’s 30 largest economies, its top 25 least corrupt countries according to the Corruptions Perceptions Index, top 12 in the Global Competitiveness Index and top 25 in the Human Development Index.




Speaking to Katie Jensen, host of the Arab News current affairs program “Frankly Speaking,” Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he would like the deepening of Saudi-Malaysian ties accelerated "because that would be a win-win for both countries.” (AN photo)

Malaysia also aims to raise its female labor force participation rate to 60 percent and lower its fiscal deficit to 3 percent and lower. To succeed in this reform agenda, Anwar intends to weed out corruption, implement good governance, boost foreign and domestic direct investment, and raise wages.

“I studied Vision 2030 extensively,” said Anwar. “And during the session we had during the World Economic Forum, we had an opportunity to engage with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for an hour asking questions on how he then sees this vision coming.”

He added: “We are now moving ahead to deal with issues that would affect the future of the world, particularly the emerging economies … dealing with energy, with digital, with technology, with quality education, with good public health service, with AI.




Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks during panel discussion of the World Economic Forum meeting in Riyadh last week. (X: @WEF)

“And I think this is the direction which is consistent with the Madani, because we also talk about civilization and values and integrity and, more importantly, the issue of good governance.”

A shared economic trajectory is not the only thing Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have in common. Both nations have also pursued their own independent foreign policy, without submitting to the demands of powerful allies or choosing sides in superpower rivalries.

“Firstly, we are not tied to this xenophobic view of viewing China in a negative sense,” said Anwar. “As a neighbor, we have not encountered problems with them.

“Of course, there are teething issues which we do encounter with all our neighbors and countries, but we maintain excellent relations, which would enormously benefit Malaysia as an emerging economy: Investments, trade and even cultural exchanges.




Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on March 31, 2023. (PMO photo)

“And we also have a very strong presence of the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. And I think to deny them a right of engaging would be futile.

“At the same time, as I have said earlier, cumulatively, the US remains the most important trading partner. And we are comfortable with it. We have benefited from its training, the technology transfer and also the workforce.

“Now there’s a continued presence of European countries, including Germany. And I think, why can’t we be just friends and engage with everybody? And those who are having problems should not impose and dictate their policies to the smaller economies, because we cannot afford to have that.

“There’s no reason whatsoever for us to be involved in that sort of a trade war, or bifurcation or tense relations between these countries.”

On the domestic front, Anwar has been true to his word on combating corruption. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has confirmed it is investigating former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in connection with a case involving his sons, Mirzan Mahathir and Mokhzani Mahathir, who have been ordered to declare their assets.

Mahathir is a vocal critic of Anwar, who served as his deputy during the 1990s before being jailed. Anwar has denied accusations of using his anti-corruption drive to settle an old political score.

“We cannot deny the fact that any effective measure to combat corruption would invite some negative political remarks,” said Anwar.

“So, are we suggesting that effective anti-corruption moves should avoid dealing with past corrupt leaders? Of course, the answer is no, because then the public would think that if you belong in a certain level, then you should be safe, excluded from these operations.




Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission signed an agreement on combating cross-border corruption. (SPA)

“So, I leave it entirely to the Anti-Corruption Commission. They do not consult me. My instructions are clear: We must stop the rot. It does not matter what the position, present or past. If you find basic reasons to suggest that investigations must be conducted fairly and professionally, please do so, because you cannot be selective, whether they are in the government or opposition, whether present leaders or past leaders.

“Otherwise, leaders like me will take the opportunity. You amass wealth as much as possible, quietly, and then later I’ll be safe because past leaders should not be touched. I think this is not the position that we take.

“I started this administration with clear calls. Good governance to rid the country of the scourge of corruption, which has led to so much waste. The endemic corruption is a scourge because it has condemned the society and the poor have suffered due to this. And many of our programs have been somewhat scuttled.

“So, we will proceed regardless. And it does not bother me in terms of the political reaction, because the Anti-Corruption Commission must remain independent and professional.”
 

 


Guidance heroes of Hajj help pilgrims find their way

Updated 5 sec ago
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Guidance heroes of Hajj help pilgrims find their way

  • Scouts can be found in all pilgrimage areas wearing blue caps, brown vests and green neckerchiefs, helping pilgrims

RIYADH: The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation trained scouts to serve during the Hajj season to provide guidance and advice to pilgrims.

These scouts can be found in all pilgrimage areas wearing blue caps, brown vests and green neckerchiefs, helping pilgrims.

Hajj scout Ramadan Swailek says that his duty is to serve and assist the pilgrims at various locations in Makkah.

“We are roaming scouts, and we have specialists from various fields present in the holy sites, such as guidance, health, and safety. The mission of a guidance scout involves guiding lost pilgrims. If a pilgrim is lost, we use maps to help them find their way.”

Swailek said that pilgrims can get cold refreshments and take a rest at the guidance stations.

“This is the first year we are working as roaming guides. In the past, we always provided stationary guidance, helping lost pilgrims who might have been wandering for three or four hours, often frustrated. Guiding them to their destination brings immense relief, and it is a highly rewarding experience. People truly compete for this role because it offers a profound sense of fulfilment,” he said.

Abdulrahim Saad Al-Maliki is another scout helping pilgrims this Hajj season.

“We come here with the intention of serving the pilgrims, as my colleague Ramadan mentioned, and we cover five areas in Mina. There is a lot of roaming, guiding and assisting in various aspects. We thank God for the blessings of Islam, our faith, and the security and safety we enjoy. We are always at the service of the pilgrims. This is my first year, and I hope to continue serving the pilgrims in the coming years, God willing.”

The Scout Commission from the TVTC in the Madinah region won the best headquarters at the camp level this year.

The TVTC was established in 1990 and has 283 training facilities covering all parts of the Kingdom.


KSrelief distribute food aid as Muslims start Eid celebrations

Updated 17 min 51 sec ago
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KSrelief distribute food aid as Muslims start Eid celebrations

  • The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, represented by KSrelief, to strengthen food security in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi aid agency KSrelief has distributed nearly 1,600 food baskets across Yemen, benefiting more than 11,000 people, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

The aid was sent to the districts of Al-Mawasit, Al-Ma’afer and Ash Shamayatayn in Taiz, as well as Al-Hawtah district in Lahij, and Al-Ghaydah district in Al-Mahra Governorate on Sunday.

The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, represented by KSrelief, to strengthen food security in Yemen.

Also in Yemen KSrelief launched a project on Sunday to distribute adahi meat in Aden Governorate.

The meat of 300 sacrificial animals was distributed on the first day of Eid Al-Adha, in Al-Mansoura city, benefiting 2,800 people who are vulnerable, disabled, displaced and those with chronic diseases.

The project aims to distribute the meat of 2,330 adahi animals to 32,620 families in the governorates of Aden, Marib, Hadhramaut, Al-Mahrah, and Lahij.

KSrelief also distributed 25 tonnes of dates sent to Kazakhstan as a gift.

The aid was handed over in Astana on Sunday by the Saudi ambassador to Kazakhstan, Faisal bin Hanif Al-Qahtani, to the deputy head of the religious administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan in the presence of a team from KSrelief.

 


Pilgrims perform final rites of Hajj as Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha

Updated 17 June 2024
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Pilgrims perform final rites of Hajj as Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha

  • More than 850,000 pilgrims had performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah by Sunday night in Makkah
  • The stoning is among the final rites of the Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam

MINA: More than 850,000 pilgrims had performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah by Sunday night in Makkah, the ritual marking the final days of the Hajj and the start of the Eid Al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world.

The long day started with masses of pilgrims embarking on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Muzdalifah under the soaring summer heat. The stoning is among the final rites of the Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

It came a day after more than 1.8 million pilgrims congregated at a sacred hill, known as Mount Arafat, outside the holy city of Makkah, which Muslim pilgrims visit to perform the annual five-day rituals of Hajj. The Tawaf Al Ifadah is performed by Hajj pilgrims after the returning from Mina.

In a press conference on Sunday night, Col. Talal bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shalhoub, spokesperson of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, said that all pilgrims safely returned to their tents in Mina after departing from Muzdalifah.

He emphasized that security forces are continuing their operations to ensure the security and safety of the Guests of Allah throughout their stay in Mina, including their rituals at the Jamarat Bridge and within the Grand Mosque.“These services encompass crowd control and management on all routes connecting their accommodations in tents, the bridge, and the Grand Mosque, as well as during their tawaf. I urge all guests to adhere strictly to the instructions governing their ritual performances,” he stated.

Pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, one of the last rites of Hajj, at the Jamarat in Mina, near the holy city of Makkah, on June 16, 2024. (SPA)

The spokesperson also advised pilgrims not to carry personal belongings when heading to the Jamarat Bridge or the Holy Mosque.

“Furthermore, I urge those intending to leave Mina on the second day of Tashreeq to follow the specified guidelines,” he added.

The days of Tashreeq are the three days that follow the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, Eid al-Adha, and are known for the ritual of stoning the three pillars in Mina, symbolizing the rejection of temptation and evil.

However, it is permissible for pilgrims to leave Makkah before sunset on the 12th day of Dhul Hijjah.Al-Shalhoub further reported that the 911 center in the Makkah region had received a total of 78,872 calls on the 10th of Thul Hijjah, covering security reports and service inquiries, all of which were promptly addressed.

He highlighted the close monitoring by Saudi leadership of all security sectors, noting continuous enhancements in their performance each year.“Our security personnel serve as exemplary role models in fulfilling their duties and facilitating the Hajj journey for pilgrims,” he concluded.

For his part, Ayedh Al-Ghuwainem, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj affairs said that the organizational plans and efforts were implemented in harmony with all the participating Hajj agencies.

“The stoning process occurred safely and tranquilly within just ten hours, achieving a compliance rate of 95 percent with the instructions,” he said.

He further added that the plans were designed to accommodate the diverse jurisprudential preferences of pilgrims using modern technology and preplanned schedules for grouping the pilgrims.Al-Ghuwainem stated that more than 800,000 pilgrims had arrived in Mina before dawn on Sunday, and by 8 a.m., all pilgrims had reached Mina.

On their arrival at the Jamarat Bridge, some 70 percent of the pilgrims used the first and fourth floors, while the rest of them went through the second and third floors, according to the deputy minister.

“Moreover, more than 850,000 worshippers have so far performed the Ifadah tawaf since midnight using shuttle bus services from and to the Grand Mosque,” he said.

The deputy minister added that the challenge they faced along with the concerned authorities was that most of the pilgrims preferred to go on foot, despite all the awareness campaigns and the availability of all means of transportation. He also urged the pilgrims to follow the instructions.


Saudi crown prince receives phone call from president of European Council

Charles Michel (L) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 17 June 2024
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Saudi crown prince receives phone call from president of European Council

  • They reviewed Saudi-EU cooperation and ways to strengthen in various areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received telephone call from the president of the European Council Charles Michel on Sunday.

During the conversation, they reviewed Saudi-EU cooperation and ways to strengthen in various areas.

A number of regional and international issues were also discussed as well as efforts made to achieve security and stability in the region, SPA reported.

 


Saudi king, crown prince congratulate South African president on re-election

King Salman (R) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 17 June 2024
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Saudi king, crown prince congratulate South African president on re-election

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent separate cables of congratulations on Sunday to South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on his re-election for a new term.

King Salman expressed his sincere congratulations and best wishes for success to Ramaphosa and for the progress and prosperity of his country, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia has enjoyed excellent relations with South Africa, which have been strengthened and developed in every aspect.