Closing peace centre will offend Saudi Arabia, Najib warns

Former prime minister Najib Razak says the Saudi government is on good terms with Malaysia. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak today warned that Saudi Arabia will be “offended” by Malaysia’s decision to close the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP).

He said this was because the Saudi government was on good terms with Malaysia.

“They treat us well, we receive much consideration from Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Najib is the second top leader of the previous Barisan Nasional administration to criticise the new Pakatan Harapan government over its decision to close the Saudi-backed centre.

Earlier today, former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein called the government’s action a loss to the nation.

Hishammuddin said the centre was meant to position Malaysia as a strategic nation to jointly combat violent extremism and terrorism on the ideological front together with Saudi Arabia.

Hishammuddin’s successor in the ministry, Mohamad Sabu, announced yesterday the closure of the centre and its office at Menara HLA in Jalan Ampang here with immediate effect.

Mohamad told the Dewan Rakyat that the centre’s role would be absorbed into the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security, which comes under the defence ministry.

Critics of the centre said Saudi Arabia was not qualified to lead it in view of its official doctrine of Wahhabism which they blamed for inspiring the Islamic State ideology.

Najib said the centre was suggested by Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz Al-Saud during his visit to Malaysia last year, and a large plot of land was allocated for it in Putrajaya.

“We welcomed the initiative and they chose Malaysia to host it over many other countries,” he said.

He added that the closure of the centre meant the government had rejected aid from Saudi Arabia which had good relations with Malaysia.

When asked about speculation that he might be detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission today in connection with the investigation of graft cases, Najib declined to comment.

Closing Saudi-backed outfit a loss to Malaysia, says Hisham