Australia may contribute to M'sia-Saudi anti-extremist initiative: Hishammuddin

MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW


KUALA LUMPUR: The Defence Ministry today expressed hope that Australia could contribute towards an initiative by Malaysia and Saudi Arabia to set up the King Salman Centre for International Peace.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, said that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed interest in the plan during her courtesy call at the Parliament building this afternoon.

"I told her about the plan to start the Centre as a counter-narrative to the Islamic State. It will see an exchange of intelligence involving academia, universities, scholars and also the public, to win the hearts and minds of those influenced by IS and its propaganda.

"Australia had its fair share of having to deal with IS and its influence.

"I hope Australia can contribute to what we are doing with Saudi Arabia," Hishammuddin told reporters the Parliament lobby today.

It was reported that the Centre is scheduled to be launched within 90 days.

Malaysia and Saudi Arabia had said that the centre’s establishment will involve collaboration with the Intellectual Warfare Centre, the Ministry of Defence, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Security and Defence Centre, the Ministry of Defence of Malaysia; the Islamic Science University of Malaysia; and the Muslim World League.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had previously announced that the two governments had agreed to establish the Centre in Malaysia, which will focus on combating extreme narratives.

On the meeting with Bishop, Hishammuddin said they discussed how to fully utilise the Malaysia-Australia relationship in light of threats today, especially by the IS.

"The ties that go way back need to not just be defended, but further boosted.

"We talked about joint-exercises, military-to-military, and sharing intelligence on new threats faced.

"On foreign and military diplomacy, (we discussed how our militaries) can (confront) the new threats," he said, adding that it was a very good meeting and he was satisfied with the outcome.

Later, Hishammuddin held a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamad Omar Arte.