Malaysian PM Anwar arrives in Indonesia for first official visit

According to a press statement, the meeting aims at taking stock of the progress of bilateral cooperation, exploring potential new cooperation and promoting joint efforts.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a press conference to announce new cabinet members at the Prime Minister’s office in Putrajaya on Dec. 2, 2022. (AFP/Arif Kartono)

January 9, 2023

JAKARTA – Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim arrived in Jakarta on Sunday for a two-day visit to Indonesia where he will meet President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the hopes of addressing persisting bilateral issues between the countries amid regional and global tensions.

Jokowi is expected to receive Anwar at the Bogor Palace in West Java on Monday.

Taking to Twitter, Anwar said that his first official visit to Indonesia since his inauguration as prime minister in November last year would hopefully result in stronger ties between the two countries.

“In addition, [I hope] to explore new cooperation opportunities through discussions with President Joko Widodo,” Anwar tweeted upon his arrival at Soekarno Hatta International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

According to a press statement from the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on Saturday, Anwar’s meeting with Jokowi aims at taking stock of the progress of bilateral cooperation, exploring potential new cooperation and promoting joint efforts to address regional and global challenges.

“Both leaders will exchange views on regional and global issues specifically on the situation in Myanmar and joint efforts to address discrimination against palm oil,” the statement said.

Anwar and Jokowi will also discuss land demarcation and maritime border delimitation, particularly as border disputes have long been seen as stumbling blocks between the two countries.

Since discussions on the Indonesia-Malaysia maritime border or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) started in 2005, no conclusions have been reached by the two countries vis-a-vis the borders in the South Malacca Strait and in the Sulawesi Sea.

Read also: Anwar’s Malaysia ready to stand with Indonesia amid regional, global divide: FM

In addition, the two leaders are expected to discuss the employment and protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, which has long been plagued with cases of human trafficking and abuse.

In July last year, for instance, Indonesia was forced to enact a temporary ban on the recruitment of migrant workers to Malaysia after some Malaysian recruiters were found to have violated a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that previously established a streamlined mechanism.

According to 2021 data from Bank Indonesia, some 1.63 million Indonesian workers, or over 50 percent of the total number of Indonesians working abroad, are in Malaysia.

Newly appointed Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir, who will be part of Anwar’s entourage during his meeting with Jokowi, has said that at least three agreements were in the pipeline to address these bilateral issues. They are the cross border agreement, the border trade agreement and the Indonesian domestic helper agreement (PDI).

Abdul Kadir Jailani, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director general for Asia Pacific and Africa, declined to comment on bilateral agreements that might be struck on Monday. “Everything will be announced directly by the President [on Monday],” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Economic cooperation

Anwar’s meeting with Jokowi will also look to further develop economic cooperation between the countries, particularly in regard to Malaysian investment in Indonesia’s new capital city project.

To this end, Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Zafrul Aziz will hand over 11 letters of interest (Lol) from Malaysian companies, which have committed to contribute to the development of the new capital in East Kalimantan.

In addition, eight MoUs between Malaysian and Indonesian private sector companies, estimated to be worth Rp 4.1 trillion rupiah (US$263 million), will also be signed on the sidelines of Anwar’s visit.

The total trade value between Indonesia and Malaysia saw a notable rise of 41.7 percent between January and November 2022 compared with previous years, as Indonesia was Malaysia’s second-biggest trading partner within ASEAN last year, according to Malaysian official data.

Read also: RI should make the most of Anwar’s visit, experts say

Experts have tipped Monday’s meeting as a great opportunity for ASEAN’s biggest and third-biggest economies to make strides in their bilateral ties, which they said would not only be advantageous domestically but would serve as powerful capital for the region as a whole.

Noting that Malaysia’s domestic politics had not fully stabilized after the rocky November general election, an analyst, however, doubted that Anwar would introduce sweeping changes to Malaysian foreign policy for now.

Anwar is scheduled to host a dinner with the Malaysian diaspora at the country’s embassy in South Jakarta on Sunday night, reported. He will deliver a public lecture on Malay-Indonesian strategic ties on Monday afternoon, also in South Jakarta, before departing back to Malaysia.

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