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Proposal for RCI into combat ship scandal to be presented to Cabinet

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says it is his responsibility to do so.

3 minute read
A model of a littoral combat ship is displayed at the Boustead Naval Shipyard in Lumut, Perak.
A model of a littoral combat ship is displayed at the Boustead Naval Shipyard in Lumut, Perak.

The proposal for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate the littoral combat ships (LCS) project for the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) will be presented to the Cabinet today.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, when winding up the debate on the motion related to the issue in the Dewan Negara yesterday, gave his assurance that he would present the matter himself to obtain the approval of the Cabinet.

"It is my responsibility to present the matter to the Cabinet on Aug 17 and I will do it. The Cabinet also needs to present (the proposal to set up the RCI) to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong," he said.

He said this in his reply to several members of the Dewan Negara, who urged the government to establish an RCI to investigate the LCS project, to examine all aspects so that no guilty party escapes prosecution.

Hishammuddin also said that based on the Cabinet's decision in April, the defence ministry would continue the LCS project for the benefit of TLDM.

He said Mindef would ensure that the mobilisation phase is implemented well, to enable Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) to start negotiations with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in Europe as well as local vendors, from June 20 to Dec 21.

Hishammuddin added that there is no additional provision for the six-month period of the mobilisation process, and no need for the project to be continued by other companies as this would further delay the project.

He said the government had also decided to establish a special governance committee, to be chaired by the secretaries-general of the treasury and defence ministry, to closely monitor the process for the next six months.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said the Prime Minister's Department had begun the process of declassifying the report of the Special Committee on Governance Investigation, Government Procurement and Finance, adding that this is expected to be completed soon.

Regarding the LCS forensic audit report, he said the Cabinet was waiting for a response from the Attorney-General's Chambers and the National Audit Department since the forensic audit is owned by BNS and not the government.

Earlier, Lim Hui Ying tabled a motion for the Dewan Negara to debate the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the LCS procurement, which had revealed irregularities and abuse of power.

Ten members of the Dewan Negara debated the motion, including Razali Idris and Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, who urged the government to, among others, establish an RCI for the LCS project.

They expressed concern that if an issue of this magnitude is not investigated, it would tarnish the name and position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the supreme commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

They also said that an RCI could provide transparency to the investigation of the project, and give confidence to the people.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said that four littoral mission ships (LMS) have been delivered. He said it was likely that the second batch of LMS would be supplied with weapons so that the LCS issue does not affect the sovereignty and security of the country's waters.

On the prosecution of former BNS managing director Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor, Hishammuddin said the action taken against the former navy commander was not something easy, and should not be considered a small matter.

He said the prosecution was carried out based on the PAC report, which showed embezzlement involving several officials.

"If we want to look at political considerations, we want politicians who are considered as sharks to be prosecuted, but that does not mean that those who are being prosecuted now are the small fry. It has been acknowledged by PAC (in the report)," he said.

Ramli was charged in the Sessions Court yesterday with three counts of criminal breach of trust of the company's funds amounting to RM21.08 million in relation to the LCS project.

On Aug 4, PAC disclosed that the committee had held nine proceedings regarding the LCS issue starting on Nov 18, 2020, with the last one on March 8 this year. It said it had called several witnesses and the results of the proceedings found that the LCS project contract was awarded to BNS through direct negotiation, with the government paying RM6.083 billion for the completion and delivery of five ships by August this year. However, not even one ship has been delivered.