LCS scandal: “Hishammuddin should know he’s not just a postman”

DEFENCE Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday (Aug 17) that ongoing construction of the first littoral combat ship (LCS) [LCS1] will not involve new allocations from the Government. 

Hishammuddin added that additional allocations for the contractor, Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS), to complete the remaining five LCS will only be considered after completion of LCS1 in another two years, despite an initial targeted date in 2019.

However, when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on January 25, 2022, he spoke about “corporate restructuring” of the RM9 bil LCS contract and that the contractor, BNS, will have to deliver two LCS without any new cost to the Government. 

This is what Hishammuddin had said, according to page 4 of the Hansard attached to the PAC’s LCS report: “They (BNS) will not get any more money from the Government until these two ships have been delivered.”  

Hishammuddin also said: “… If we want to proceed, we cannot put all the money upfront if Boustead doesn’t commit to being able to deliver at least two ships”. 

He further stated: “This is the only option I have. If I am wrong or is not enough (sic), then I don’t have any other ideas to propose. You got to find a new defence minister la”. 

The defence minister should explain why in three short months he has reduced from two LCS to one which must be completed by the contractor with no additional Government funds. 

Release of declassified report 

I commend Hishammuddin for the release of the declassified report of the governance, procurement and finance investigation committee (JKSTUPKK) on the Royal Malaysian Navy’s LCS project and for taking up the issue of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the scandal during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. 

As PAC chairman Wong Koh Woh has said, the JKSTUPKK report should have been released without any redaction. Therefore, I call on Hishammuddin to have a special secret session with all MPs on the redacted parts of the JKSTUPKK report as well as to explain the defence ministry’s plans on the six LCS.   

Hishammuddin should be aware that he is the defence minister and not a postman, and although he had kept his promise to the Dewan Negara on Tuesday (Aug 16) to bring the suggestion of an RCI on the LCS issue to the Cabinet, Malaysians expect the Cabinet to establish the RCI and not just for the defence minister to act as a postman. 

As I said yesterday (Aug 17), Hishammuddin should resign as defence minister if he cannot convince the Cabinet to set up an RCI into the LCS scandal, as it would show that his views and proposals as defence minister on defence matters are utterly irrelevant and not taken seriously by other ministers in the Cabinet. 

I have given 20 reasons why there should be an RCI into the scandal. The 21st reason is the JKSTUPKK report itself, even with the redactions. 

“Answers Najib, proves Zahid was lying” 

The JKSTUPKK report has achieved multiple objectives. It is the answer to the challenge by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to those blaming him for the failed LCS procurement that he must take responsibility for the LCS scandal; the LCS history went as far back as 2007 when Najib was the defence minister. 

It also proved that former defence minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was lying when he said it was unreasonable to pin the failure of the LCS procurement on him as he was not the defence minister when the project was awarded. 

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Photo credit: Utusan)

The JKSTUPKK report is proof that it was Zahid who overturned in July 2011 the decision recommended by the navy to contract six Dutch-made Sigma LCS and choose the Scorpene manufacturer’s six French-made Gowind LCS, without consulting the Navy, the end-user.  

What more has Zahid got to say now? 

Zahid should explain why it took nearly a year from October 2009 to May 2010 and six meetings with the navy on its recommendation to procure the Sigma LCS before he, as defence minister, gave final approval on May 26, 2011, for the Sigma procurement.  

He should also elaborate on why the decision was overturned in three days on July 11, 2011, because of the representation of the contractor, without consulting the navy. 

Was the decision to procure the Gowind LCS decided by Najib from the very beginning with Zahid’s knowledge – which meant that the nearly year-long six meetings from October 2009 to May 2010 between the navy and the defence ministry on the former’s recommendation for the Sigma LCS, leading to Zahid as the defence minister giving final approval on May 26, 2011, for the Sigma LCS procurement – was a pure charade and the navy’s views were utterly irrelevant and inconsequential? 

The answer could only be found with the establishment of an RCI into the LCS scandal. 

“3 CBT charges nothing to do with LCS scandal”

I have observed that the three charges against former Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd managing director Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor on Monday (Aug 15) had nothing to do with the LCS scandal. All the three criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges against Ramli were before the issue of the LOA (Letter of Award) for the LCS procurement that was issued on December 16, 2011. 

Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor and his wife arriving in court (Photo credit: The Star)

As the three charges against Ramli pre-date the issue of LOA for the LCS procurement  – which meant they related to other defence procurement scandals – the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should explain why it has failed to make a single charge against anyone for the LCS scandal, even after 10 years.

No wonder Malaysia is rated in the low category of high-risk corruption D group of countries in Transparency International’s (TI) Government Defence Integrity (GDI) Index for corruption in the defence sector, for there are many other defence acquisitions in Malaysia mired in corruption, malpractice and abuse of power.  

These include the theft of two engines of F5 fighter jets, the Scorpene and Agosta submarines scandal, the crash of Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) aircrafts, the four-year delay in the delivery of six Little Birds helicopters, only four of the 28 Russian-made fighter jets able to fly and other horror stories of defence procurement in Malaysia involving millions or billions of ringgit.  

An accounting from MACC is called for. – Aug 18, 2022


Lim Kit Siang is the Iskandar Puteri MP, DAP supremo and a veteran lawmaker.   

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.   


Main photo credit: Asia News Day

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