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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Please come clean on stolen jet engines

THE disappearance of two Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) F-5E jet engines, reported stolen two years ago, are as mysterious as their recovery.

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid said the engines were retrieved by Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail: "I cannot give the actual date on which the engines were brought back to the country, but it was by the efforts of the attorney-general, who went there physically".

Many expressed disbelief that the RMAF could misplace two jet-engines as well as their maintenance and service documents.

The timing of the disclosure was deemed suspicious. The theft surfaced only when the RMAF wanted to overhaul the engines in 2007. The public was notified in late 2009.

Following investigations, two individuals were found to be guilty. Allegations of torture to extract a confession from RMAF Sergeant N Tarmendran caused further disquiet. Ahmad Zahid maintained it was an inside job but the brigadier-general who was sacked over the incident, continues to receive his pension and other retirement benefits. The accusation is that Tarmendran was made the scapegoat. A theft of this magnitude could not have happened without the collusion of high ranking officials.

But Ahmad Zahid's revelations that the jet-engines had been returned, inadvertently raised more questions. Why are we throwing more good money after bad? There has been incompetence at every level – from storage to subsequent retrieval.

abdul-zahid-jet-engineWhen Zahid said that the company which bought the stolen goods will not be compensated, isn't he confused? This company which, has so far remained nameless, should be prosecuted for receiving stolen goods. Last December we were assured that those responsible would be pursued and tried in an international court of law.

With regards to compensation, isn't it Malaysia which should be compensated for its loss and the cost of recovery? It would be interesting if the identities of the shareholders or owners of this Uruguayan company were made known.

It is puzzling too that the attorney-general had to be physically present to release the jet engines. Our interests in Uruguay are represented through our embassy in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the honorary consulate in Montevideo, in Uruguay. Is the ambassador, or military attaché, inadequate?

Others are interested to know how long the A-G spent in Uruguay and whether he made other stops en-route? We are wary of overseas trips by civil servants and politicians because of past abuses of tax-payers' money.

But there is one anomaly. In November 2007, the President of Uruguay, Tabare Vazquez, and his entourage of 50, paid a visit to Malaysia. Coincidentally, our engines disappeared in late 2007.

No one is suggesting that the President took the engines home in his presidential briefcase, but Tabare was embroiled in the 'arms from Iran controversy'. In 2007, he authorized his navy to pick up a "cargo" in Venezuela, three months after the UN placed an arms embargo on Iran. The Uruguayan defence officials later dismissed the incident as the result of "confusion". Thus, the second coincidence is the involvement of the controversial President.

The Uruguay President came to visit in 2007. The third coincidence is that our jet engines were eventually found in Uruguay.

From 2000 to 2008, Malaysia's Minister of Defence was Najib Abdul Razak. Currently, there is a debate about over-spending in the huge military build-up during his tenure.

Are the Uruguayans peeved they paid too much for the engines?

Or have the engines reached their final unknown destination, using Uruguay as a transit point, but to keep us quiet, we are told that they have been returned?

Such confusion!

It's time that the government comes clean on this issue - the sooner the better.

courtesy of Malaysian Mirror

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