Review of Saudi-backed King Salman ‘peace centre’ in pipeline, says Mat Sabu

Mohamad Sabu clocks in with a ‘punch card’ on his first day as defence minister.

KUALA LUMPUR: Newly appointed Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu today said discussions would be held with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the future of a Saudi-backed anti-terrorism centre which was allocated 16 hectares of land in Putrajaya by the previous government.

The King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) was initiated during a visit last year by Saudi Arabian ruler Salman Abdul Aziz, and has been promoted ever since by Mohamad’s predecessor, Hishammuddin Hussein.

“We will discuss with the prime minister and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) on future action.

“I do not want to implement anything new without consultation,” Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, said in his first press conference shortly after being welcomed on his first day of work at the MOD headquarters this morning.

The establishment of KSCIP was criticised by Pakatan Harapan leaders, including Mat Sabu’s own party Amanah.

They questioned Saudi Arabia’s qualification to lead such a centre in view of its official doctrine of Wahhabism which had inspired the IS ideology.

Mat Sabu said he would also start investigations into wrongdoings involving the ministry under the previous administration.

“I don’t want to listen to hearsay,” he added.

“If there is action, it will be based on evidence and thorough investigation, including on the Scorpene submarines,” he said, referring to Malaysia’s controversial purchase of two Scorpene submarines from France a decade ago.

Mat Sabu also said internal audit processes would be held in the ministry before any matter is brought to the Cabinet.

On his first day as a minister, the Amanah president admitted that he was nervous, saying he would now have to abide by rules and protocol.

He said his statements should also be based on facts, as anything he said would have an impact on ties with other countries.

“This is something new. I have to get used to this change, but my style will remain Mat Sabu,” said the popular veteran politician, best known for his oratory skills. He added that he would now have to separate his role as a party man from that of a government minister.

Mat Sabu, who lives in a terrace house in Shah Alam, said he was considering moving to his official residence in view of the travel distance to his office in central Kuala Lumpur.

“I arrived here after a long journey. Whether I will move out, I haven’t decided,” he said.

King Salman Centre for International Peace begins operations

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