By Hadi Azmi
The Malaysian government has closed the Saudi-backed anti-terrorism center named after the kingdom’s ruling monarch, members of parliament were told on Monday.
The King Salman Center for International Peace (KSCIP) was announced in March 2017 as King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud wrapped up a trip to Malaysia. In July 2017, officials announced the center would be constructed on a 40-acre site in Putrajaya.
What had been Malaysia’s third counter-terrorism center has been housed in temporary office in Kuala Lumpur as the government had set a two-year timeline for construction.
Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu told parliament the center and its temporary office would cease operation immediately.
“The function suggested for KSCIP will be absorbed by Malaysian Institute of Defense and Security otherwise known as MIDAS, under the Ministry of Defense,” he said in a written response to a question posed by a member of parliament.
MIDAS, which describes itself as a “center of excellence for research and knowledge sharing on issues pertaining to defense and security,” was launched in 2010.
In Aug. 15, 2017, then-Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told the parliament’s upper house that KSCIP would serve as an information exchange center to assist the government against threats of terrorism, amid alarm over the ongoing siege of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, by Southeast Asian fighters loyal to the so-called Islamic State.
“Never in history have terrorists been able to wave their flags in the region. They never used to be able to set foot in this region,” Hishammuddin said at the time. “What is happening in Marawi has gone beyond our expectations and has proven to us that we need to work together in handling this terror threat. What we thought could be solved within three to four days has become three to four months, and it is still ongoing.”
On Monday, Sabu also told parliament about plans to remove troops from the Middle Eastern kingdom.
“Malaysian troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia since May 7, 2015,” he said, adding that 12 tours of duty had cost 16.4 million ringgit (U.S. $4 million).
“Each tour is between three and four months consisting of 87 to 89 members and two C130 Hercules troop transport planes.”
In June, Sabu had announced a review of Malaysia’s military presence in Saudi Arabia, saying its presence in the country “indirectly entraps Malaysia in the Middle East conflict.”