KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 – UMNO President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should not be denying his role in the procurement of the littoral combatant ships (LCS) and instead he should be explaining why as Defence Minister in July 2011, he overturned the decision as recommended by the Navy to contract six Dutch-made Sigma LCS and chose the Scorpene manufacturer’s six French-made Gowind LCS within three days without consulting the Navy, the end-user.
In a statement issued here today, Member of Parliament for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang said it was as clear as daylight that Zahid was responsible for the RM9 billion LCS scandal.
“He should explain why he took three days on July 11, 2011 to overturn the Ministry of Defence’s decision made on May 26, 2011 to contract the Sigma LCS and to go instead for the Gowind LCS, without first referring the matter to the Navy.
“In fact, the RM9 billion LCS was so contractor-centric instead of end user-driven, that the Navy never knew that the decision had been overturned.”
Zahid has denied any involvement in the financial improprieties regarding the LCS project, saying that he was not the defence minister at the time the project was awarded.
On Aug 4, the Public Accounts Committee tabled a report on the multibillion-ringgit procurement of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) in the Dewan Rakyat. It had begun its probe into the issue in late 2020 after it was first raised in the 2019 Auditor-General’s Report, with PAC calling Zahid Hamidi and several former senior officials to testify.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Wong Kah Woh had said there were many challenges faced in coming up with the report, which had been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant movement control orders.
Zahid has since denied any responsibility in the procurement and the subsequent delay with no ship in sight and an expenditure of RM9 billion involved, saying that the party that had caused the construction delay should be responsible for providing an explanation to the PAC.
Meanwhile, in his statement, Kit Siang pointed that Zahid was Defence Minister from April 2009 to May 2013 and the new Defence Minister after Zahid was Hishammuddin Hussein after the 2013 General Election.
“Is Zahid saying that Hishammuddin and not him who must be responsible for the RM9 billion LCS scandal?”, Kit Siang asked.
This is not possible as approval for the RM9 billion LCS project was given in 2011 when Zahid was Defence Minister.
Zahid should explain why there was such inordinate delay in the LCS project that the LCS contract was not signed until 2014 when there was a new Defence Minister.
“If Zahid is not responsible for the RM9 billion LCS scandal, why did he appear before the PAC on 25th October 2021 and said that the decision to change the Sigma LCS to Gowind LCS was the choice of the contractor and not that of the Defence Minister?
“Didn’t Zahid as the Defence Minister had the elementary duty to refer the issue back to the Navy as the end-user, instead of acceding to the contractor’s request to change the Sigtma LCS to Gowind LCS within three short days?
“No wonder the then head of Navy, Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar said in one of his 10 letters of protest – five to the Defence Minister and two to the Prime Minister – that “there is no precedent of the design being decided by the main contractor and not the end-user.. and that “something was gravely wrong as the navy and not the contractor should be setting the terms of the LCS contract…and the Navy was “fighting a losing battle,”’ said Kit Siang.
Kit Siang also sought to know why the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) did not investigate Zahid on his three-day change of decision from Sigma LCS to Gowind LCS in 2011 and when it actually began investigating the LCS scandal.
MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki has said the MACC will soon reveal the findings of its investigations into the RM9 billion LCS scandal and that investigations were in the final stages.