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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zahid ready to testify over Scorpene deal


May 29, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi (picture) has said he is willing to testify in court on the government’s controversial Scorpene submarine deal if called to do so.

But he stressed that this would only be possible if the Cabinet first gave him permission to take the witness stand.

“If the Cabinet doesn’t allow it, then I don’t have to go,” he told reporters here today.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) filed an initial suit against DCNS, French makers of the Scorpene submarine, in December 2009 for “active and passive corruption, trading of favours and abuse of corporate assets” when securing the deal.

The US$1 billion deal has been linked by the opposition and critics of Barisan Nasional (BN) to the gruesome murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Sharibuu in 2006.

Suaram is planning to hold a series of fund-raising dinners in Penang and Kuala Lumpur in July to support its legal fund in pursuit of the suit it filed in a Paris court.

Zahid said today that Suaram has every right to raise funds for its legal suit and challenge the government’s position on the submarine deal.

“They may. They may raise funds. They may challenge us in court. They may do anything. We would like to be more transparent,” he said.

“The allegations made by them, let the court reveal the justice.”

He added that while he respected Suaram, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) must differentiate between defence issues and political issues, pointing out that it would be detrimental to national security if details of the submarine’s specifications were made known.

“We should not reveal its specifications in court even if the court has the right to know everything,” he said.

Altantuya was killed with C4 explosives at a jungle clearing in Shah Alam, Selangor in 2006.

She was a lover of Abdul Razak Baginda, a close friend and adviser to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was then Defence Minister.

Two of Najib’s bodyguards, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30, and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, were convicted for her murder in April 2009 while Abdul Razak was acquitted of abetting the murder.

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