MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Enough meat on LCS bone for MACC to act

The MACC’s inordinate delay and feet-dragging for several years in investigating the RM9.1 billion littoral combat ships (LCS) scandal is not only puzzling but inexcusable.

This is in stark contrast to its double-quick efforts to investigate unsubstantiated allegations by dubious parties of bribery against a judge (now in the Court of Appeal) who convicted former prime minister Najib Razak of crimes and sentenced him to 12 years in jail and fines of RM210 million.

As the name implies, an LCS is a fancy, technical name for a sophisticated naval craft built and designed to operate near the shore. Malaysia contracted to buy six ships in 2013 in a contract covering 10 years.

Nine years later, none has been delivered but over RM6 billion has mysteriously and unaccountably been paid. Then defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in 2017 that he took delivery of one in a now infamous tweet, plain lying that is impossible to justify and which in most other countries would have led to his immediate resignation.

Tweet on ‘launch’ of one of the LCS by then defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein

If the MACC requires any more evidence to proceed, the comprehensive 250-page report on the ships by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released on Aug 4 provides a sea of evidence from which investigation sorties could be easily launched by the anti-corruption agency, which should have done so at the first whiff of scandal.

The issue has been on the radar of the public for quite a while and it is a miracle that the MACC has picked up so few signals. All MACC chief Azam Baki can say is that investigations are in the “final stages” following several years of probes.

"Investigations into the matter have been going on for the past few years. I have said many times that we are investigating and are nearly at the end of the probe," he was quoted as saying on Saturday (Aug 6). Why so long, so much so he had to say it “many times”?

"I have to be mindful of the sensitivity of the investigation as it does not only involve the MACC, but other agencies as well, including the Attorney General's Chambers."

Of course, it’s sensitive but not for the reasons Azam says. So what if it involves the AG’s Chambers? The sensitive part is that it potentially involves two former defence ministers, the other one being Umno president, formerly deputy prime minister and legally beleaguered Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. And it also involves the prime minister at the time, Najib.

But affecting national security? Hardly. What is so secret about an LCS? More likely, it affects the security of these politicians and their cronies. But really, that should be of no concern to Azam. His only consideration should be to prevent corruption no matter by whom. That should be his only brief.

Ratchet up the pressure

PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli has indicated in statements how the LCS could be related to all three of them – Najib, Zahid and Hishammuddin. That certainly calls for an investigation by the MACC if it is to be the true, investigative and independent enforcement agency that it was set up to be.

When, not if, the investigations are handed over to the attorney-general for charges to be pressed, Azam should be brave and act according to his brief to do his sworn duty, notwithstanding that he as MACC chief serves at the pleasure of the prime minister. This was clearly demonstrated by Najib in 2015 when he removed the then AG amid rumours that the PM may be charged.

The PM is now Ismail Sabri Yaakob, not any of the three mentioned, making it easier for action to be taken against them and their cronies who may have assisted them. Ismail Sabri’s perilous position as PM and his tendency to avoid rocking the boat probably ensures both the MACC chief’s and the AG’s jobs are secure.

Among other considerations for ongoing legislative changes, the opposition should ratchet up the pressure to make the office of both the MACC chief and the attorney-general independent of the PM by having them appointed by Parliament and giving them security of tenure.

In a nutshell, the main findings (see below) of the PAC investigating the RM9.1 billion LCS contract is that RM6.1 billion, or some 67 percent of the contract sum, has been paid but not one ship has been delivered.

The MACC should investigate why and how such a massive scandal, probably second to only the 1MDB scandal, arose and bring the culprits to book without any further delay.

It details processes, contracts, planning and other weaknesses which are indicative of fraudulent manipulation by those in high places. The other point is the Royal Malaysian Navy’s recommendations were ignored with frequent, unexplainable changes in design plans.

The chart shows the various stages of completion for each of the six ships and it is clear that payment was out of all proportion to work done, with the first ship being only 44 percent complete and zero work done on the last, which is supposed to be delivered next year.

Among the many narratives in the PAC report is an admiral’s losing battle with the contractor over the ships. “There is no precedent of the design being decided by the main contractor and not the end-user,” wrote then admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar in one of his correspondences to the government. The letter was cited in testimony to the PAC.

There is much for the MACC to work on in this case, much more than the judge’s case which they were so eager to investigate for reasons best known to themselves. Without a doubt, numerous charges against numerous people can be made with proper investigations and action.

It’s now all up to the MACC and the AG. They must do the needful, or step aside. - Mkini

P GUNASEGARAM, a former editor at online and print news publications, and head of equity research, is an independent writer and analyst.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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