Steering clear of comments about politics and policies that might be controversial, Nancy Reagan flew here from Bali today, the first of two stops to promote what she calls her "mother-to-mother" program to fight drug abuse.
She talked briefly to reporters traveling with her aboard Executive One, the jet that serves as a backup to the president's Air Force One. But she refused to be drawn into a discussion about whether she is worried for her safety during the three-day trip.
"Somebody asked my husband that and I'll go along with his answer. He said, 'I'm superstitious, so I'm not going to talk about it,' " she said.
At Subang Airport, she was met by Siti Hasmah, wife of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad,, who invited her to Malaysia. She also was greeted by a security detail of two dozen motorcycle outriders, a 24-car motorcade and a Malaysian military helicopter flying protectively above the 12-mile route into the Malaysian capital.
Meanwhile, about 60 Moslem young people shouted "U.S. aggressor go home" outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the recent bombing of Libya, which the Malaysian government also has condemned. The protest ended after about 15 minutes, when a light rain began, according to reporters there.
Along the motorcade, however, were friendly crowds waving greetings to Mrs. Reagan. Dozens of airport feeder roads and city streets had been blocked off to traffic more than two hours before her arrival. Authorities had given no advance notice. A local journalist said her newspaper received dozens of calls from residents fearing civil unrest had broken out somewhere in the country.
Local media coverage of Mrs. Reagan's activities has been sharply curtailed. Only the government-owned television network and the official government news agency, Bernama, have been issued credentials for the visit.
On the plane, Mrs. Reagan gave no indication she was aware that coverage of her message against drug abuse would be restricted. Asked if she endorsed the Malaysian government's approach to combating drug abuse, which includes a mandatory death penalty for those convicted of possessing more than 15 grams (about one-half ounce) of heroin, she said she did not.
"I'm not endorsing anything," she said. "All I'm trying to do is to get people more knowledgeable about drugs, more informed about drugs, more involved -- parents and the children -- so that they work together -- the schools. That's all I'm trying to do."
At another point, when pressed on whether she had any concerns about the political situation in her next stop, Bangkok -- where the Thai parliament was dissolved Thursday after Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda's coalition lost an economic policy vote -- she said, "That doesn't have anything to do with me." Prem continues as caretaker prime minister until general elections scheduled for July.
"My program is mother-to-mother. It has nothing to do with government or politics or anything else," Mrs. Reagan said. She is scheduled to meet Prem at lunch Sunday.
Here in Kuala Lumpur, her hotel, Shangri-La, is only a few minutes away from Pudu Prison, where 73 convicted drug traffickers await the death penalty. Thirty-six already have been executed, and signs on the walls around the prison complex warn that "dadah" (drugs that are abused) means death.
But this afternoon, at least, there seemed to be no time to talk about drug abuse. Mrs. Reagan called upon the queen, whose husband, Sultan Mahmood Iskandar, is the current king under a five-year rotating kingship with eight other royal families.
Sultanah Zanariah gave Mrs. Reagan a heavy, hand-crafted and slightly oversized gold belt, then helped her put it on, with two ladies-in-waiting standing by to assist. Mrs. Reagan gave the queen a set of two sterling silver Tiffany Audubon vegetable spoons.
At a tea that followed in an ornate banquet hall, Malaysian dancers entertained and Malaysian models paraded batik fashions, some in the same dresses for as long as 15 minutes at a time.
Mrs. Reagan herself was something of a fashion plate, wearing a royal blue and white silk print dress, with a brimmed straw hat, shoes and handbag also in royal blue. Royal blue is one of three colors the U.S. Embassy advised Mrs. Reagan and women accompanying her to avoid wearing; both it and yellow are considered to be royal colors. The third color, white, is for mourning.
Aides to Mrs. Reagan said she committed no breach of protocol by wearing royal blue since it was not solid, but broken up in a print.
"It's quite appropriate, just so it's not solid," said Jack Courtemanche, the first lady's chief of staff.
At a dinner given in her honor by Siti Hasmah and her husband, Prime Minister Mohammad, Mrs. Reagan said no aspect of cooperation between the United States and Malaysia "is more valuable than our combined efforts in the battle against drug abuse."
Commending Hasmah's leadership, Mrs. Reagan said, "Malaysia has made a major impact in halting drug abuse, not only at home, but throughout the world." In her speech Hasmah called Mrs. Reagan's visit "an encouragement to mothers and parents" in Malaysia.
Echoing the Malaysian government's view that the drug problem is the country's most serious problem, outranking even the fight against communism, Hasmah said the priority is now shifting away from enforcement to preventive efforts.
"The aim is to isolate our youths from the clutches of drug peddlers and to protect schoolchildren from the lure of drugs," she said.