Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Wednesday, 22nd October 2008: 

The RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar EC725 helicopter deal should be suspended until the outcome of PAC scrutiny

When the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Pekan on Sunday that the Cabinet had agreed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinise the acquisition of the Eurocopter EC725 helicopters to replace the aging Nuri helicopters, it raises the serious question whether the Prime Minister-in-waiting fully understands and respects the principle and practice of parliamentary democracy and the doctrine of separation of powers.

In a country truly founded on parliamentary democracy, where the Cabinet is answerable to Parliament and not vice versa, the question of the Cabinet approving a parliamentary scrutiny of an Executive decision would not have arisen – as this is the unquestioned right and prerogative of Parliament in the discharge of its tasks to exercise check-and-balance on executive power.

As the PAC has decided last Wednesday to scrutinise the three mega-scandals highlighted by Pakatan Rakyat in the 2009 budget debate, the RM5 billion Maybank purchase of Bank International Indonesia (BII) at five times the book value, the RM2.3 billion defense deal for 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters and the awarding of the RM11.3 billion high-speed broadband contract to TM Bhd, is Najib suggesting that the Cabinet would only agree to the PAC scrutiny of the Eurocopter deal but not the two other mega-scandals?

Furthermore, what does Najib mean when he said the Cabinet has agreed to the the PAC scrutiny of the Cougar EC725 helicopter deal?

Last Friday, the Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah issued a totally unsatisfactory statement to claim that the decision to procure the Europcopters was done following proper procedure and was not influenced by any party, as no satisfactory answer had been given to queries as to why the full technical evaluation process had not followed standard international practices and lacked transparency.

Abu Bakar claims that the tender documents by seven bidders were evaluated in three parts – the technical evaluation committee, offset evaluation committee and price evaluation committee.

All information and data must be presented to the PAC for its scrutiny, including the outcome of the respective technical, offset and price evaluations for each tender bid – with representives from each of the tender bidders invited to appear before the PAC as only they will know how the tender process had disadvantaged or sidelined their aircraft.

In its scrutiny, the PAC should have the benefit of independent expert advice and not be totally dependent on the Defence Ministry or Royal Malaysian Air Force.

Parliament should empower PAC to engage consultants who is knowledgeable in the aviation field especially the helicopter industry and profession.

The PAC should also scrutinize the way the tender team has carried out he selection and check the scoring system to ensure there is no partiality in the grading.

Of particular interest to the PAC is the price differential in the Eurocopter deal by Malaysia as compared to Brazil, which is acquiring 50 ‘Super Cougar’ units from Eurocopter at a price consideration of US$1.2 billion of which the first unit will be delivered in 2010, giving an average unit price of RM84 million as compared to the average unit price of RM193 million for the RMAF’s 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters.

In this connection, I call on the Cabinet to take a definitive decision at its Friday meeting that the Letter of Intent awarded to Eurocopter is suspended until the outcome of the scrutiny of the PAC on the helicopter deal.

The PAC should have a greater sense of urgency and seriousness in its decision to scrutinize the Eurocopter deal as well as the other two mega-scandals, the Maybank BII and Telecom HSBB scandals. I understand the PAC has has not scheduled any meeting dates to begin its examination of the three scandals, which is most shocking, as the PAC should be prepared to work extra hard to scrutinize the three mega deals without any delay.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor