Visit opening ties in all fronts – Saudi ministers

KUALA LUMPUR – Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia is set to open up further avenues in boosting bilateral ties in all fronts, especially in the trade and economic sphere between the two countries.

Saudi’s Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih pointed out the many achievements in so far, with Saudi being one of the largest trading partners for Malaysia and one of the 20 countries from Middle East with large investments in Malaysia.

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Khalid pointed out the kingdom has two investment projects under establishment in Johor worth 64 billion Riyal (1 Riyal = RM1.09) and 44 other projects in Malaysia worth more than 1.038 billion Riyal, while Malaysia in turn has invested in 38 projects in Saudi with a total value of 1.59 billion Riyal.

“The Kingdom’s 2030 vision provides exceptional investment opportunities for the investors and leading companies in the world,” he said in a statement sent by Saudi Arabia Embassy in Malaysia on Thursday.

Muhyiddin concluded his four-day visit to Saudi from 6-9 March on the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The visit is seen as a great success with the signing of three agreements, first the establishment of the Saudi-Malaysian Coordination Council, the second relating to the arrival of pilgrims, and the third a memorandum of understanding relating to Islamic affairs. During the visit the Saudi government also granted Malaysia’s request for additional 10,000 haj quota.

In the same statement, Saudi’s Commerce Minister Dr Majid Abdullah Al Qasabi said trade exchange between the two countries amounted to 67 billion Riyal during the last five years and Saudi ranked 13th among the exporting countries to Malaysia.

“The private sector has an important role in pushing the economic relations between the two countries towards further development and growth,” he said.

Apart from economic cooperation, Saudi’s Islamic Affairs, Dakwah and Guidance Minister Sheikh Dr Abdullatif Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said both countries were banded together by the unity of belief, common interests and fraternal ties.

First country to implement initiative

He pointed out that Malaysia was the first country to implement the “Makkah Road Initiative” which aimed to facilitate the haj and umrah pilgrims.

“The ministry is going ahead with developing its relations with Malaysian side in all fields in order to serve the Islamic Dakwah, taking care of the mosques and develop the performance of imams and preachers according to the vision of the leaderships of the two countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saudi’s Education Minister Dr Hamad Mohammed Al Sheikh said the Prime Minister’s visit opened up more opportunities for cooperation in the fields of science, research and innovation and the development of cooperation between Saudi and Malaysian universities.

“The Education Ministry annually provides 300 scholarships for Malaysian students to study in Saudi universities,” he said, adding that there are currently 797 Saudi students on scholarships studying in Malaysia.

He said so far more than 20 memorandums of understanding and service contract have also been signed between Saudi’s universities and their Malaysian counterparts.

Saudi’s Ambassador to Malaysia Datuk Dr Mahmoud Hussein Saeed Qattan said the mutual visits of leaderships of the two countries confirm the depth of Saudi and Malaysia relations and their desire to strengthen the ties to achieve the common interests of the two brotherly countries and people.

He said Malaysian businessmen and companies were invited to take advantage of the investment opportunities in various fields available in light of the country’s Vision 2030.

Within the framework of joint international efforts to combat COVID-19, he said Saudi has taken the initiative to provide medical aid to specialised international organisations and many countries, including Malaysia.

Waiting for official statement

Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) meanwhile is waiting for an official statement from the Saudi Arabian government on the additional haj quota which is expected to be issued around April, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

He said in the meantime, TH would make the necessary preparation for haj pilgrims before they depart for the Holy Land.

“I’m confident that we will be notified around Ramadan. Although it is a short period of time to make preparation, TH will take it positively to prepare the pilgrims and settle all issues.

“We will wait for them (Saudi Arabian government) who has definitely considered the health and security aspects, not only in terms of the worship place but the haj pilgrims as well,” he told reporters after handing over laptops to asnaf students from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Perak at Dewan Besar Tabung Haji here, today.

It was reported that the Saudi Arabian government has agreed to give Malaysia an additional 10,000 places under the latter’s haj quota when the haj situation returns to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin secured the additional quota during his meeting with the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, in Riyadh on Tuesday.

When asked about the haj pilgrims selection criteria and quota, Zulkifli said it was still too early to set any numbers.

“The selection of pilgrims is based on the preexisting conditions stipulated by TH such as they must be vaccinated. As for the numbers, we don’t have any official figure yet. TH will look into the candidates’ financial ability and health, including the senior citizens,” he said.

According to TH official website, the Saudi Arabian government has set the haj quota for every country at 0.1 per cent of the total population and the quota for Malaysia is currently at 31,600.

Meanwhile, on the controversy involving entrepreneur Muhammad Sajjad Kamaruzzaman or better known as Nur Sajat who allegedly insulting Islam and Wan Norhayati Wan Alias or Ibu Yati on alleged deviant teaching, Zulkifli said he would issue a written statement on the matter soon.

On the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision yesterday which allows Christians nationwide to use the word “Allah” in their religious publications for educational purposes, Zulkifli said an internal discussion would be held with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and the Federal Territories Mufti’s office tomorrow.

Earlier, 218 UTM students from Johor, Perak and Pahang received a laptop and financial aid through the Iqra’ Programme, which among others provides educational assistance to students from the asnaf group and B40 families.