New infantry battalion to boost RMAF presence in Labuan

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — An infantry battalion will be established to support and further strengthen the role of Labuan’s Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base.

Defence Deputy Minister Datuk Rahim Bakri said the air force base currently played a vital role in national security, with the relocation of the hawk squadron and other aircraft.

“The Labuan air force base is now important, spearheading the role in safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty, not only for Labuan but also in the East Malaysia region,” he told reporters after visiting the RMAF base here today.

He said development project plans were being drawn up to fully equip the base with the relevant infrastructure, facilities and army personnel.

“The relocation of the squadron hawk in Labuan reflects the government’s high commitment on the importance of strengthening national defence, especially in Sabah and its surrounding, owing to threats within the Sulu Sea and South China Sea, but the base is now only strengthened with a detachment,” noted Rahim.

The relocation of the hawk squadron from the Butterworth base to Labuan was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during the tabling of the 2015 Budget in October last year to strengthen security in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone).

Rahim said some 300 RMAF personnel were deployed at the base since the relocation of jet fighters at the end of last year. Four hawk squadrons have been relocated from Butterworth at the base.

“We have studied several issues pertaining to the deployment of army personnel here and among them are the need for housing facilities.

"We have requested an allocation and we hope we will get approval soon for the full deployment of army personnel in the base," he said, adding that RM41 million was required for the construction of housing facilities and basic infrastructure development projects at the RMAF base.

“Alternatively, to speed up the process in providing the housing facilities, we are looking at refurbishment of abandoned buildings and there are buildings owned by the Royal Malaysian Navy which be re-constructed into staff quarters,” said Rahim. — Bernama