Sunday, October 12, 2014

IS threat increases need for Labuan base

From the Free Malaysia Today (Oct 9): IS threat increases need for Labuan base

KUALA LUMPUR: Labuan’s significance as a military base has increased since the militant Abu Sayyaf group pledged its support for the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (IS).

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told Parliament today that Abu Sayyaf’s declaration had brought fresh threats to the country and his ministry therefore considered Labuan still a strategic base for East Malaysia although the naval facilities were being transferred to mainland Sabah.

He said he expected the Prime Minister, in his budget announcement tomorrow, to touch on security issues in East Malaysia.

“We hope that plans for Labuan will be announced,” he added.

He made the remarks when responding to Rozman Isli (BN-Labuan), who asked what the government planned to do with land tracts in Labuan formerly occupied by the navy.

During the question and answer session, Hishammuddin repeated his denial of an allegation that Malaysia had offered to house a detachment of American maritime patrol aircraft, specifically the P-8A Poseidon.

He said this in reply to Er Teck Hwa (DAP-Bakri), who referred to a top US Navy official’s statement last month that Malaysia had made the offer.

“These allegations can’t be true, especially when we don’t have the facilities to accommodate the P-8A Poseidon aircraft,” he said.

“Malaysia and the United States do not have an agreement for the deployment or detachment of the P-8A Poseidon to Malaysia.

“Any coordination detachment of the P-8A Poseidon to Malaysia will be on a case-by-case basis, after permission for detachment is obtained and we will use the existing diplomatic channels.”

He also spoke of a recent exercise involving Malaysian army troops based at the Pengkalan Chepa camp and United States Army Pacific Command, saying the training was on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

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