Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Scorpenes return with a vengeance

Like it or not, Prime Minister Najib Razak has always been linked to the purchase of the French built Scorpene submarines and also the Russian Sukhoi SU30MKM aircraft.

This is a fact one needs to bear in mind. No contract of such magnitude would even need to allude to him at the time of purchase. He was the Defence Minister and his signature of approval would be evident on all the relevant documents.

There is no point in questioning whether there were any procedural misconduct in the purchasing of the arms. It would all be in order and the paper-work in place. Asking for an explanation from this angle will only bury you in technical jargon that would spin you round moon.

What really needs to be questioned is the role of Syarikat Perimekar Sdn Bhd as the defense contractor in charge of maintenance works on Malaysian soil.

The link to Najib resonates to the tune of RM534.8 million in taxpayers money.

Perimekar is not a single entity but a private enterprise owned by three other bodies - Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera, Boustead Holdings Bhd and KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd.

This is where things get rather odd.

Najib's own Datuk T trio - LTAT, Boustead and KS Ombak

Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) is a government statutory body charged with the investing contributions from military personel for the purpose of generating profits which will be channelled back into the military’s pension schemes and other benefits for its members. Its primary duty is to invest money. And LTAT is the largest investor in Boustead Holdings Bhd.

Boustead Holdings Bhd is one of Malaysia's largest diversified conglomerates.

KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd is owned by Razak Baginda, close aide and best friend to Najib Razak.

RM534.8 million is being spun amongst friends, all of whom can be traced back to Najib, the Defence Minister at the time of purchase.

LTAT and Boustead are investment firms and KS Ombak would have been the point man.

Yet, all three do not have experience in maintaining military equipment, only the Defence Ministry has this expertise.

Why then was the Defence Ministry sidelined in favor of a private contractor?

Zahid and Pandikar - would they lie to cover up for Najib?

When allegation of kickbacks surfaced, investigations were called for. The government of the day took great pains to sweep this from the public’s gaze.

July 2010 saw contradicting statements from then Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Amin Mulia.

In a written reply to William Leong, the PKR MP for Selayang, Pandikar stated that the matter need not be discussed in Parliament as the issue of the RM534.8 million was under investigation by the MACC.

And since the issue was still being investigated, William's motion to debate it was rejected.

But Pandikar directly contradicted Ahmad Zahid, who stated that the matter did not need to be brought to the MACC since the purchases were approved by the Finance ministry and all procedures were followed.

So was the matter ever brought to the MACC? Was it Pandikar who lied or Zahid who lied, did both men lie to prevent the issue from being recorded in Parliament?

The point is, the issue was never about the procedural aspects of the purchase but what became of the RM534.8 million and why was it awarded to three submarine novices?

Who is the BN government trying to protect?

Should not leaders who lie at the people's expense be punished?

The Perimekar contract should have been an instant red flag to all officials involved - if they were sincere leaders and workers concerned about transparency and how the people's money was being spent.

It was so obvious since the person running it, Razak Baginda, was also the one involved in securing the purchase of the military equipment.

How could the government overlook this fact and award a maintenance contract to the very person who negotiated the terms of purchase for the equipment he would service?

The agreement would have been lop-sided from the very beginning, and given Razak Baginda’s closeness to Najib, the amount agreed on may not have been the best value for tax-payers' money.

How Najib and his associate explain this away remains to be seen. But for sure, whichever way and whatever procedure they use, the contract will always point back to Najib.

The Scorpenes have indeed returned with a vengeance.

And it is set to take down not just one man, but a whole organisation dedicated to keeping the truth from the Malaysian public.

- Malaysia Chronicle

Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle

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