DAP demands resignation of Malaysia’s attorney-general and top graft buster over warship deal scandal
KUALA LUMPUR: The Democratic Action Party (DAP) on Thursday (Aug 11) called for the resignation of the attorney-general and the chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for their supposed inaction over the littoral combatant ship (LCS) scandal.
This was after Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he had contacted Attorney-General Idrus Harun and MACC chief Azam Baki and ordered them to take immediate action on the issue on Wednesday.
DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng said this was an open admission that both Mr Azam and Mr Idrus had miserably failed in their statutory duty to act independently and professionally without fear or favour.
“The abject failure of both agencies to defend national interests and uphold the sanctity of the law to punish those involved in the misappropriation of funds in the RM9 billion (US$2.02 billion) LCS scandal cannot be justified.
“Malaysians continue to be outraged that RM6 billion has been paid but not one single ship has been delivered even though the delivery time has long passed.
“And yet, both MACC and attorney-general appear indifferent and appear ready to act only when directed and not when a wrong is committed. DAP reiterates that both Azam and Idrus must resign as being unfit for their important posts so that their replacement can conduct and act against those responsible,” Mr Lim said in a statement.
The procurement of six LCS is the subject of a RM9.14 billion navy contract scandal, which saw current and former defence ministers denying responsibility.
The Malaysian parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the project to construct six ships was awarded by the Ministry of Defence to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) through direct negotiation, and the government has paid RM6.08 billion or 66.65 per cent of the cost so far.
"However, not even one of the LCS ships has been delivered. According to our timeline, five LCS ships should have been completed and handed over to us by August 2022,” said PAC chairman and Ipoh Timor MP Wong Kah Woh during a press conference last Thursday.
The first ship was due to be delivered in April 2019.
BNS is a subsidiary of Boustead Holdings Bhd, a diversified business conglomerate whose largest shareholder is Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), or the Armed Forces Fund Board.
According to Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation Berhad, the LCS is a frigate-class vessel that can perform complex naval missions covering all four dimensions of modern warfare, namely anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare.
Mr Ismail Sabri had on Wednesday promised that investigations into the issue will be carried out transparently and that the government will not protect anyone involved.
“The Cabinet has urged the MACC to expedite its investigations and if there is concrete proof, the attorney-general will have to charge those responsible and bring them to justice,” he said in a statement.
He said he had contacted Mr Idrus Harun and Mr Azam after the Cabinet meeting to act immediately in accordance with the decision of the meeting.
Mr Ismail Sabri also said that the government agreed to declassify a report on LCS prepared in 2019 by the Committee on Procurement, Governance and Finance as well as a forensic audit report.
Last month, Deputy Defence Minister Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz told the Lower House that the anti-corruption agency had wrapped up its probe.
“Charges have been recommended and it is now for the attorney-general to decide the next course of action," he was quoted as saying by the Star on Jul 27.
On Aug 6, Mr Azam, the graft buster chief, was quoted by Malaysian media as saying that the agency was in the final stages of its investigation, but the matter had to be referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers and other relevant parties before the report could be publicly disclosed.
Several political parties have called for the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the matter.
Speaking out against the scandal, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged the Ministry of Defence to stop the procurement and use the allocation instead to improve the welfare of army veterans.
In response, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Mr Anwar's suggestion was merely to score political mileage.
He was quoted by national news agency Bernama last Friday that over 400 vendors hoped the project would continue, and 90 per cent of the vendors were linked to veterans.
The minister told the Upper House on Monday that the ministry was given six months to revive the project and he believed that the first ship would be delivered within two years.
INVESTIGATION PAPERS SUBMITTED TO AGC: MACC
In a statement on Thursday evening, the MACC said it had concluded its investigations on several individuals over the LCS deal.
A number of investigation papers against individuals linked to alleged irregularities in the handling of the LCS project were completed, it added.
“The said investigation papers have been submitted to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) with a recommendation to consider charging several individuals,” the anti-graft agency said, adding that it would await further instructions from the AGC.