A Saudi-backed anti-terrorism center that was to be housed at a state university south of Kuala Lumpur will instead occupy a 40-acre (16-hectare) site in Malaysia’s administrative capital, officials have announced.
Announcing the development after a meeting with top Saudi officials at his official residence, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stressed what he said was a special bilateral relationship with the oil-rich kingdom on the Arabian Peninsula.
“The construction of KSCIP [King Salman Center for International Peace] in Putrajaya reflects the importance of the institution, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself will come to Malaysia to launch the center together with me,” Najib said Sunday, according to state news agency Bernama.
“This is because King Salman could have chosen any other country to build the center, but the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques still chose this country.”
The building housing Malaysia’s third counter-terrorism center will be constructed at a site in Putrajaya, about 24 km (15 miles) from Kuala Lumpur, and the government has a two-year timeline for building it. The center started operating out of temporary quarters in Kuala Lumpur in late May, according to Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
The creation of the center was announced on March 1, when King Salman visited Malaysia. As revealed at the time, the plan was to house the new center at the Islamic Science University of Malaysia’s (USIM) campus in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan – 45 km (28 miles) from central Kuala Lumpur – according to USIM Vice Chancellor Musa Ahmad.
On Tuesday, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department who serves as the chairman of the center’s committee, visited the Putrajaya site. Officials have not released a price-tag for the project.
“God willing, the construction will be detailed in a special committee meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, next week,” he told BenarNews.
An opposition member, however, questioned the need for a third counter-terrorism center in Malaysia.
Malaysia – whose government has warned its citizens for the past two years about a threat to national security from Islamic State recruitment of local youths and of IS terror plots in the country – already has an online counter-extremist messaging center overseen by the Royal Malaysia Police. It also has the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism, operated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with assistance from the U.S. State Department.
KSCIP will focus on an academic approach to taking on and getting rid of terror organizations, government leaders vowed. The center is a partnership involving the Intellectual Warfare Center the Ministry of Defense in Saudi Arabia, the Security and Defense Center at Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense, the Muslim World League and USIM.
Mohamad Imran Abdul Hamid, a former admiral in the Royal Malaysian Navy and now an opposition lawmaker, questioned the prime minister’s latest statement about the Saudi-financed center.
“The announcement is an effort to strengthen Najib’s political position and to illustrate the close relationship with Saudi Arabia,” he told BenarNews. “This announcement is merely to obscure the eyes of Malaysians that he has good relations with Saudi Arabia and other world governments.”
Meanwhile, a defense analyst said he could not see the rationale for another anti-terror center in the country.
“The government has set up a strategic digital communication division under the supervision of the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counter Terrorism and the Counter Messaging Center under the Royal Malaysian Police to handle Islamic State false narratives in social media,” analyst Lam Choong Wah said.
“What is the importance of building a security center in Putrajaya?” Lam, a former senior fellow at the Research Institute for Social Advancement, told BenarNews.