I will be silent no more, Hishammuddin warns Mat Sabu

Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein today warned his successor Mohamad Sabu that he would start making his views heard soon as Mohamad’s “honeymoon period” is almost over.

Hishammuddin, who held the defence portfolio during the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, said he had purposely remained silent on issues relating to the defence ministry.

“I purposely didn’t say anything this session because I wanted to give him (Mohamad) time to learn and see what there is in the ministry.

“I didn’t want to comment as I wanted to see what decisions he could make. But once the 100 days are up, I will start making my views heard, starting with the King Salman Centre (for International Peace), assets, and the welfare of our soldiers, their families and the veterans.

“The 100 days are almost over. It’s about time they actually proceed to govern and administer. The defence ministry is important because it involves the security and defence of our country,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Commenting on Putrajaya’s decision to shut down the peace centre, Hishammuddin asked whether Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, had an alternative approach to tackling violent extremism and terrorism such as that espoused by the Islamic State (IS).

“The minister made the decision not to go with it, but what are their plans in the future in terms of countering extremism and terrorism? What are their alternative plans?

“The reason the centre came about was because we came to a realisation that we cannot go head on with the IS and that it required a new approach.

“That was something I was looking at with the crown prince. I feel that the principle of engaging scholars and academics through a soft approach is the right way compared to the military approach which we can see is not working in Syria, Yemen and Libya.”

When asked about the funds involved in setting up the centre, Hishammuddin said it had been fully funded by Saudi Arabia.

“If we choose not to collaborate with them (Saudi Arabia), they can choose from among many other countries. But that would be a loss on our part,” he added.

When asked whether the closure of the centre and the withdrawal of Malaysian troops was done in a bid to go against the former administration’s efforts to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, Hishammuddin said he did not see it that way.

“We have moved beyond politics. I don’t know but I hope they do not decide on security and defence issues based on politics. That would be very irresponsible.”

Mat Sabu, in his earlier announcement on the shutting down of the centre, said its role would be absorbed by the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security, which comes under the defence ministry.

Critics had said Saudi Arabia was not qualified to lead such a centre in view of its official doctrine of Wahhabism, which they blamed for inspiring the IS ideology.

The centre was proposed after King Salman Abdul Aziz’s official visit to Malaysia last year.

The then-BN government allocated a massive plot of land in Putrajaya to set up the facility.