A communication blunder by top diplomats at the Malaysian embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during a recent official visit by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to attend a major trade expo has left the Gulf state red-faced, with UAE officials scurrying to the airport to apologise to the Malaysian delegation, MalaysiaNow has learnt.
The incident, described by officials on both sides as “embarrassing”, left Wisma Putra with no choice but to recall the Malaysian ambassador to the UAE, Tarid Sufian, and its consul-general in Dubai, Hasril Abdul Hamid.
Wisma Putra in a statement confirmed that the duo had been stationed in Putrajaya, saying the move was justified as they had failed to make arrangements to manage the visit of a head of government.
“Such a measure had to be taken because as the head of the delegation, they were not able to coordinate the administration and logistics for the visit, which should have been handled properly based on the SOPs of high-level visits abroad, especially involving the arrival of the prime minister in Dubai on March 29,” it said, adding that a news website’s description of the incident bordered on “speculation and baseless allegations”.
Invitation to summit
Ismail visited Dubai late last month to attend the Expo 2020 event, one of the biggest trade exhibitions in the world which had been postponed due to Covid-19.
The expo was held in tandem with another major event, the World Government Summit, for which an invitation was extended to Ismail. Wisma Putra however was never notified of this.
“Had the embassy informed Putrajaya earlier about the invitation, this whole incident could have been avoided as the necessary arrangements would have been made,” said the source.
It said due to the critical lapse in communication to Wisma Putra about the summit, it was too late for the organisers to include Ismail in the list of speakers.
The Malaysian embassy’s failure to inform the UAE government about the prime minister’s visit also led to an absence of official protocol to welcome foreign dignitaries.
As a result, the prime minister was made to go through normal immigration clearance at the airport.
A junior diplomatic source from the UAE said the failure of the Malaysian embassy to inform his government had left the emirates “embarrassed by the lack of hospitality accorded to the Malaysian prime minister”.
“Due to the absence of any information given to our side, there was no official welcome or police outriders. It was a huge embarrassment, more so for the host country than the visitors,” the source added.
“Within hours of being told that His Excellency (Ismail) had arrived at the airport, we dispatched our officials and extended our apologies,” he said.
When queried about the failure to inform UAE officials, one Malaysian diplomat said it was wrongly assumed that Ismail was on a “private visit”.
“Whatever the reason, both sides were left red-faced by such inefficiencies. It is part of basic SOPs for diplomats to be on the alert, especially when their head of government is coming to their turf,” the diplomat added.
Ismail’s departure from Dubai, meanwhile, was a far cry from his arrival as he was given a full security escort and other official arrangements accorded to visiting VIPs.