More questions have surfaced as debate continues in the aftermath of Anwar Ibrahim's official visit to Saudi Arabia, after a senior journalist claimed that officials in the kingdom approved the prime minister's meeting with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Writing in his column, The Star's Wong Chun Wai quoted "high-level sources" as saying that a note from the Saudi embassy had confirmed to Wisma Putra the meeting with Mohammed, which is normally the highlight of any foreign head of government's visit to the kingdom.
"We received a third-person note. Surely, we would not go ahead without that," Wong wrote, citing a "senior source".
The source was also quoted as saying that Anwar had no choice but to take up a last-minute confirmation from Saudi Arabia so as not to offend them, leading to Wisma Putra's surprise press statement announcing the official visit.
"A quick call had to be made and the PM decided to proceed with it," the source was quoted as saying by Wong, who also agreed that the trip turned out to be an "embarrassment for Anwar" although "not a complete waste".
The revelation came as Malaysians took to social media with comments and jibes on Anwar's trip, with a video clip making the rounds showing Mohammed meeting with dignitaries in a trip to the holy city of Mecca just hours after Anwar's departure.
Many also drew comparisons with the full honours accorded to former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin in 2021, where Mohammed, better known as MBS, welcomed him at the airport himself.
Anwar expressed regret that he had been unable to meet Mohammed, with a Bernama report saying the meeting could not take place because the crown prince had a change of plans ahead of the Ramadan month.
This led to opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) demanding an explanation of the events leading to the cancellation of the meeting.
PN also pointed out that Muhyiddin, as well as former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, were given the honour of entering the kaabah, a rare privilege accorded to Muslim dignitaries.
The criticism drew a quick response from the government's propaganda unit J-KOM, or the Community Communication Department stationed under the Prime Minister's Department.
Its chief Mohammad Agus Yusoff slammed critics and declared Anwar's visit a success, adding that the prime minister had also met with Malaysian entrepreuners in the kingdom.
"Was it not successful just because he couldn't meet King Salman and the crown prince, or is there a more substantive argument?" he added.
Agus also said Anwar had turned down a request by Saudi officials to extend his stay so that a meeting with the crown prince could take place.
He said this was because the prime minister was scheduled to visit Cambodia and China in the coming days.
"Isn't this a busy schedule? Wouldn't it involve a big change if his return was to be delayed by two more days? Please understand the time constraints faced by our PM, who works hard for the country," Agus added.
Meanwhile, Wong in his column predicted that the controversy would soon die down after Anwar embarked on his "all-important" trip to China.
"Anwar is certain to get the proper red-carpet welcome and recognition for Malaysia in China," he added.