Solidarity With Palestine

The assault against the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere is continuing unabated.

Despite the on-going humanitarian tragedy confronting the Palestinians during Eid, it is heartening to see that Malaysians of all faiths, races and walks of life have united in solidarity with them.

This shows Malaysians at their best: that despite the difficulties and divisions we have faced in this last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that we can still unite against the face of blatant oppression.

Indeed, the psychotically cruel and brutal actions of the Israeli government in attempting to evict Palestinians from their own land while deploying overwhelming military force against them have rightly been condemned all over the world.

As long as Israeli’s Western enablers, including the United States remain silent along with their Arab Muslim allies in the Middle East, they will be complicit in the former’s crimes and atrocities.

But Malaysians should not be discouraged despite the seemingly overwhelming obstacles. We must remain steadfast with our Palestinian brothers and sisters in their time of great trial.

We must not doubt that our efforts, whether protesting online, or spreading awareness of the Palestinian cause, or through donations, or even just our prayers, will help bring about justice in the Middle East, sooner or later.

The key is to continue with our efforts, to not lose hope and never falter. We must continue our peaceful activism and pressuring the international community to ensure a just and lasting peace emerges, resulting in an independent and viable Palestinian state.

To our Palestinian brethren: you are not alone in your hour of need.

The people of Malaysia are with you—now and always.


The Government Must Be Transparent On The LCS Saga

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) saga was one of the several issues that had been brought to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs when I chaired it from December 2019 until the December 2020.

We must remember that LCS is one the largest defence procurement for new equipment undertaken in Malaysia’s history.

The Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement and Finance (JKSTUPKK) had stated that the LCS is one of the vendor-driven procurement undertaken by the Ministry of Defence, where the requests and needs of the contractor prevailed over that of the end-user, the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM).

TLDM had initially agreed to use the Sigma design proposed by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding from the Netherlands, but was overruled by then Minister of Defence, Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the requests of BNS without referring to TLDM in 2011. BNS was pushing for the Gowind-class design by the Naval Group France (NGF). TLDM had also initially expressed its disappointment at the decision.

The first delivery of the 6 LCS was supposed to have taken place in April 2019. In fact, it was revealed in December 2020 that the first ship is only 59.79% complete despite some RM6 billion having been paid out.

Compare this with Egypt-which ordered four Gowind-class ships two years later than Malaysia in 2013 and the first ship commissioned in 2017. Keel laying to delivery took only 36 months.

Indonesia on the other hand ordered four Sigma-class ships in 2010. This was the original request by TLDM. The first ship was commissioned in 2017 while the second was commissioned in 2018.

The current government, has however decided that the project should be continued by its contractor, the Boustead Group via its BNS subsidiary. The majority shareholder for Boustead is Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT). Earlier, the government ruled out an option to appoint NGF as a “rescue contractor” to complete at least 2 of the LCS.

The Cabinet has said that it will impose a number of conditions that the Boustead Group must obey. However, what these conditions are, how they will be enforced or will help the completion of the project (which was supposed to be finished by end-2023) has not been detailed.

For one thing, it was still allocated the project despite its alleged poor track record with previous projects such as the New Generational Patrol Vessel (NGPV), which was reportedly impacted by delivery delays and large unforeseen additional costs—the matter had been investigated by the 11th Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in 2007.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs was also informed by JKSTUPKK that BNS had created written commitments with third party suppliers regarding specifications and equipment for the LCS before the “surat setuju terima” (SST) had been issued by the government.

This in turn had an outsized influence on the design of the LCS that BNS recommended to the Ministry of Defence, rather than the considerations and needs of TLDM as the final user as mentioned-earlier.

Before we go any further, it should be established that the main priority in defence procurement must be getting the best equipment for our armed forces. By this logic, the needs of the armed forces should be paramount, rather than those of companies or other interests.

While it is true that the Navy eventually agreed to the specifications, it cannot be denied that the issue of the LCS’ design sets a negative precedent.

The Committee was also told that BNS had applied and received an advance of more than RM1 billion on the contract, which is more than the norms established by the Ministry of Finance.

An exception however was made by the request of the Ministry of Defence due to the supposed weak financial state of BNS even at that early stage. So the current problems faced by the LCS was not something inevitable if normal government financial procedures were followed.

The Committee in fact heard from BNS’ management itself that almost RM396 million from the LCS project was used to pay off debts and interest occurred from the NGPV project. Effectively, this was robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Committee was further informed that BNS had taken loans from financial institutions to manage the cash flow for the LCS project, but this resulted in the need to pay interest of up to RM571 million by February 2020, which had not been planned for while the contract was being negotiated.

BNS’ cash flow problems also resulted in the late or failure to pay a number of OEMs for the LCS project, leading to work stoppages or the cancellation of deliveries by the OEMs, hence contributing to the delays.

These are just a few of the many anomalies that were said to have plagued the project.

All of this suggests a failure on the part of the government at the time to undertake due diligence on the contractor, whether in terms of its technical or financial capacity to carry out the project.

The current Perikatan Nasional government is compounding these failures by continuing the project solely on the basis of the unknown “conditions” it has set the contractor.

I do not rule out the possibility that the company has been able to address its various real and perceived weaknesses in the interim.

However, public confidence and the national interest would be better served if, as noted, the government could be transparent and reveal what the conditions are, how they will be enforced and how it will ensure the guarantee of completion.

It cannot simply cite the interests of jobs, vendors and the LTAT to continue the project without outlining what safeguards it has put into place to ensure that the contractor will finally be able to deliver.

It must not be forgotten that the cashflow problems also caused hardship to the OEMs (who are vendors, after all) and their workers. And the last thing the LTAT needs is to keep having to deal with the reputational issues the LCS issue has caused.

But more importantly, Malaysia, via its serving men and women, urgently needs better hardware like the LCS to defend its borders, especially the increasingly challenging maritime sector.

Without proper safeguards, transparency and a commitment to the best practices, Malaysia will be stuck in an endless cycle.

We must cry over spilt milk. This government owes us much more information and far better performance than it has dished out so far.


Muhyiddin’s Failed Attempt To Declare Emergency Unnecessary, Dangerous

MP SPEAKS | His Majesty, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, as well as their majesties the Malay Rulers were absolutely correct in their belief that a state of emergency is not necessary for Malaysia. This should be respected by all Malaysians.

No one denies the threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to our country. The situation remains serious and in Sabah especially, tragic.

But no other nation in the world has responded to it by suspending its democratic processes or proroguing its legislature. We must get rid of this idea that politics is somehow a barrier to good or efficient governance – in fact, they cannot exist without each other.

Read more here.

Philippines Revival Of Sabah Claim An Attempt To Distract From Duterte’s Badly-Bungled Covid Response

It appears that the Philippines is continuing with its illegal and fantasy-driven claim on Sabah. Its Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr has recently announced plans to reactivate the country’s so-called “North Borneo Bureau” while claiming that “Sabah is ours (the Philippines)”.

Make no mistake, Sabah is and will remain an integral part of Malaysia. The Philippines revival of its “claim” is a desperate attempt to distract its public from the monumental failures of the Rodrigo Duterte administration, including its badly bungled Covid-19 response.

Nevertheless, it represents an affront to Malaysia’s sovereignty and dignity which cannot be ignored.

Secretary Locsin’s actions are nothing less than an attempt to interfere in our country’s democratic processes, especially given that Sabah is undertaking state elections at this very moment.

They are moreover a breach of the ASEAN principle of non-interference in the affairs of member states. It is unfortunate that they are engaging in such divisive actions at a time when Southeast Asia ought to be standing together in the face of attempts by certain superpowers to divide our region and turn it into a battleground for their geopolitical rivalries with each other.

While it is right for Malaysia to not entertain the Philippine claims, our government must also consider a stronger response if the latter does not cease and desist from its wild rhetoric.

As the saying goes: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” There is a danger that this might become a reality if we fail to take active steps to put a stop to the Philippines’ aggressive attempts to delegitimise Sabah’s rightful place as part of Malaysia.

The Philippines actions are not that of a friend. The Malaysian government must do much, much more than it has done so far to protect our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.


The Decision On The Najib Case

Justice has been done today with the conviction of Dato’ Sri Najib Razak in the SRC International case involving all 7 charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.

This proves that the years-long struggle to expose and bring to justice the abuses of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal by so many patriotic Malaysians has finally been vindicated.

There should be no longer any doubt that a grievous wrong was done to Malaysia via the 1MDB scandal. The rakyat can now judge for themselves after years of attempts at denial and obfuscation not just by Najib but by his enablers.

It is crucial that the various investigations, court cases and efforts to recover stolen funds in relation to 1MDB must continue without delay, fear or favour.

Every cent that was stolen must be returned and all guilty parties brought to justice.

While today’s court case is a welcome development, it is just the beginning and not an end in the cause to bring this sordid saga to an end.


The Government Must Protect Our Credibility In The South China Sea

Our Foreign Minister, Dato’ Seri Hishammudin Hussein must be more careful and precise in his pronouncements moving forward.

The South China Sea dispute is an international issue. As such, statements by our leaders on this matter will likely be scrutinised not only domestically but on the world stage as well.

Hence, not only is Malaysia’s territory and sovereignty at stake, but also its reputation and credibility.

Also, the current government must continue to address the fundamental question of how Malaysia can defend its rights in the waters.

While diplomatic approaches are ideal, Malaysia’s leaders must show that it is serious in defending its national sovereignty.