King Salman not informed Saudi-backed peace centre closed, claims Najib

Najib Razak with Saudi monarch King Salman Abdul Aziz in May 2017. The then government had offered a piece of land in Putrajaya for the proposed King Salman Centre for International Peace. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Najib Razak claimed that the Saudi monarch, King Salman Abdul Aziz, was not informed of the previous government’s decision to close the Saudi-backed King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP).

The announcement of the centre’s closure was made by then defence minister Mohamad Sabu.

And this, the Pekan MP said, was the reason Saudi Arabia skipped the KL Summit in December last year.

“No letter was sent to King Salman. Do you know how he felt?” he said at a ceramah while campaigning for the Chini by-election.

“Are we not courteous? If you don’t want a project, backed by King Salman, to be implemented, at least send him a letter or give him a call. This is common courtesy.”

The ceramah was attended by Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan and his PAS counterpart, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, as well as Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

Najib went on to claim that the decision to shut down the centre was why Saudi Arabia gave the summit a miss.

“(That’s why) many countries skipped it. Pakistan didn’t attend, Brunei didn’t attend and even Indonesia didn’t attend.”

Najib went on to say that when he was the prime minister, there was an increase in quota for Malaysians to perform their haj as he had applied for it through King Salman every year.

Putrajaya, then under Pakatan Harapan, had ordered the closure of the centre in August and its role to be absorbed into the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security, which comes under the defence ministry.

KSCIP was first proposed following the visit by King Salman to Malaysia in 2017. The Barisan Nasional government had then agreed to allocate a massive plot of land in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.

Critics, however, questioned the partnership with Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, highlighting Riyadh’s military and ideological role worldwide.

Meanwhile, the KL Summit – described as a game-changer in the Muslim world’s relations with Saudi Arabia – was attended by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar head of state Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The summit also made headlines after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan cancelled his trip at the eleventh hour, reportedly under pressure from the Saudi government.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi represented Indonesia at the summit.

In March, London-based news outlet, the Middle East Eye, alleged that the Saudi Arabian government launched a media campaign to belittle the KL Summit, including compiling a series of messages which local media organisations and commentators were instructed to issue.

It also allegedly targeted newspapers, websites and television channels in various countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and several Arab states.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.