KUALA LUMPUR: The proposal to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the construction of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) project for the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) will be presented to the Cabinet today.
Senior Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, when winding up the debate on the motion related to the issue in the Dewan Negara yesterday, said that he gave an assurance that he would present the matter himself to get the approval of the Cabinet.
"This is my responsibility to present the matter to the Cabinet on Wednesday (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 yesterday, 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 Ministry of Defence (Mindef) will continue the LCS project for the benefit of RMN.Therefore, he said, Mindef will ensure that the mobilisation phase will be implemented well, to enable Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) to start negotiations with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in Europe and local vendors, from June 20 to Dec 21.
Hishammuddin also explained that there is no additional provision for the six-month period of the mobilisation process, and there is no need for the project to be continued by other companies because it will be further delaying the project.
He said the government also decided to establish a Special Governance Committee, which will 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 that the Prime Minister's Department has started the process of declassifying the report of the Special Committee on Governance Investigation, Government Procurement and Finance (JKSTUPKK), and it is expected to be completed soon.
Regarding the LCS forensic audit report, he said that the Cabinet was waiting for the response of the Attorney General's Chambers and the National Audit Department since the forensic audit was owned by BNS and not the government.
Earlier, Senator Lim Hui Ying tabled the motion for the Dewan Negara to debate the report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the procurement of LCS, which revealed various irregularities and abuse of power in the entire project.
A total of 10 members of the Dewan Negara debated the motion, including Senator Datuk Razali Idris and Senator Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, who urged the government, among others, to establish an RCI for the LCS project.
They expressed, among others, deep concern that if an issue of this magnitude is not investigated, it will tarnish the name and position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the supreme commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF).
They also believed that an RCI can provide transparency to the investigation of the project, as well as give confidence to the people.
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said that four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) have been delivered, and it is likely that the second batch of LMS will be supplied with weapons so that the LCS issue does not affect the sovereignty and security of the country's waters.
Touching on the prosecution of former BNS managing director, Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor, Hishammuddin said that the action taken against the former navy commander was not something easy, and should not be considered a small matter.
On the other hand, he said that the prosecution was carried out based on the PAC report, which showed the existence of 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 small fry. It has been acknowledged by PAC (in the report)," he said.
Ahmad Ramli was yesterday charged in the Sessions Court 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, and the last one on March 8 this year, by calling several witnesses and the results of the proceedings found that the LCS project contract was awarded to the BNS in direct negotiation, with the government paid RM6.083 billion to complete and deliver five ships by August this year but not even one ship has been delivered. —Bernama