A tale of two visitors to Malaysia

The contrasting visits of Sam Rainsy and Abdul Somad Batubara


The respective visits to Malaysia over the last couple of months by Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy and Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara tell us very much about the direction Malaysia is heading under the Anwar administration.

Last month, the controversial Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad arrived in Malaysia and travelled directly to the prime minister’s office in Putra Jaya to meet prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. The preacher who has been denied entry into a number of countries including Hong Kong, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, believes strongly in abolishing any monarchy, in favour of an Islamic Caliphate and the introduction of Hudud laws. Abdul Somad dismissed the current dialogue between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and intolerant of non-Muslims.

After Abdul Somad’s one hour meeting with Anwar, he went on to make a number of speeches in Melaka, Perak, and in Selangor at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque in front of members of the Selangor Royal family, and senior religious officials. Abdul Somad obviously had a license to speak in all these states, a privilege even the Mufti of Perlis doesn’t have.

After his speaking engagements, Abdul Somad jetted off in a private jet sponsored by the Malaysian government. The local Indonesian media played up Abdul Somad’s visit to Malaysia, as he is shunned by the government in Indonesia as an extremist.

In contrast, Sam Rainsy’s visit to Malaysia didn’t go the same way. Rainsy, a long-time opposition figure to the Hun Sen regime in Cambodia is wanted in his home country for what many call politically motivated charges. Rainsy has been at the forefront of fighting injustice and abuse of power in Cambodia. Rainsy came into Malaysia on his French passport and entered the federal parliament ‘through the back door’ to meet with a number of politicians.

After his visit to parliament, Rainsy left Malaysia abruptly. It’s not certain whether he left on his own accord or was deported, once the government became aware of who Rainsy actually was.

The two visits show great contrast. Abdul Somad’s views are so extreme and not compatible with the themes of Malaysia Madani. Certainly, Malaysia Madani doesn’t call for an overthrow of the political system and replacement with an Islamic Caliphate. The official support Abdul Somad received was worrying, in the sense it could be taken as a tacit endorsement. Its also not certain how the Indonesian government saw the visit.

In contrast, Rainsy’s visit, a man who carries the ‘spirit of reformasi’ in his heart was shunned. Anwar, when he was in the wilderness sort out moral support from whoever would give it. There was definitely no Madani empathy and compassion for Rainsy, for old time’s sake in reminiscing the aspirations of reformasi, with a fellow reformasi politician.

Perhaps the two visits indicate what is install for Malaysia. Afterall, actions speak louder than words.