Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Friday, 31st October 2008: 

Chor Chee Heung – another Deputy Minister like Abu Seman who did not know what he was answering in Parliament?

Yesterday, Parliament was presented with the spectacle of a Deputy Minister winding up on behalf of his Ministry in the 2009 Budget debate when he was totally out of his depths – Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop on the current controversy over the billion-ringgit 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopters.

As a result, both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to subsequently make supplementary statements outside the House to salvage the damage caused by Abu Seman in his “atrocious” parliamentary performance.

Immediately after lunch break yesterday, I had stood up in Parliament to ask Abu Seman the reason for three different sets of figures for the Eurocopter deal, firstly, RM1.604 billion he mentioned in the House; secondly, the RM1.1 billion cited by the Defence Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Abu Bakar Abdullah as reported in the media on 17th October5 2008; and thirdly, the RM1.67 billion given by the Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister on Tuesday, October 29, 2008.

When I had first pointed out the difference in the deputy minister’s figures with the Defence Ministry secretary-general, Abu Seman was clearly caught by surprise and I had to ask him whether he read newspapers last Saturday which reported Abu Bakar’s statement.

On the three sets of different figures, Abu Seman tried to wriggle out of the question by claiming that foreign exchange fluctuations factored in the differences in figure.

Abu Seman was dumbstruck when I shot down this untenable excuse, as I pointed out that the helicopter tender made it very clear that the bids would be evaluated as quoted in Malaysian ringgit based on the foreign exchange rate on the closing date of the bid.

Abu Seman was then reduced to the plaintive protest: “You can say what you want!”

How pathetic.

But Abu Seman was not the only Deputy Minister who was completely out of his depths in Parliament yesterday.

The Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Chor Chee Heung was not very much better.

I asked Chor to give details of the police helicopters “shelved” because of the global financial crisis to enable the government to reallocate public expenditures.

This is the Star report today:

Cops defer plans to buy copters

POLICE have deferred plans to buy eight helicopters. The purchase will instead be made under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

A sum of RM272mil had originally been set aside to buy the helicopters.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung revealed this when replying to Lim Kit Siang (DAP - Ipoh Timur).

He said the allegation that the helicopters were being bought at RM350mil in a direct negotiation deal was not true.

“The police intended to have the helicopters to increase efficiency but the purchase has been deferred,” he said when winding up the debate on the Budget.

Chor’s answer is at complete variance with that given by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Amirsham Aziz the previous night.

Responding to my query, Amirsham had said that the purchase of 21 police helicopters had been suspended in view of the looming economic crisis.

Why is Chor talking about eight police helicopters when Amirsham had talked about 21 police helicopters?

Another example of a deputy minister who did not know what he was answering in Parliament?

Is Chor unaware of police request for 21 police helicopters? Like Abu Seman, Chor should keep abreast of newspaper reports, particularly the statements of his officers so as not to make a public exhibition of the most embarrassing ignorance about goings-on in his Ministry.

I would refer Chor to the Utusan Malaysia report on of 13th August 2008 on the statement by the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan that the Cabinet had approved 21 helicopters for the police, viz:

21 helikopter awasi perairan

LABUAN 12 Ogos – Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) akan menambah 21 buah helikopter bagi meningkatkan kecekapan operasinya terutama di dalam mengawasi perairan negara, kata Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Musa Hassan.
Menurut Musa, cadangan untuk membeli helikopter itu telah diluluskan oleh Kabinet baru-baru ini dan kerajaan akan memutuskan pembelian aset tersebut kemudian.

‘‘Pada masa ini kita (PDRM) mempunyai 12 buah helikopter dan jumlah itu tidak mencukupi memandangkan tugas pasukan semakin mencabar,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas acara menembak sempena lawatan wakil media ke Pulau Layang-layang, dekat sini hari ini.

Was Chor completely unaware of police plans to buy 21 helicopters, as appeared to be the case?

Malaysian taxpayers are entitled to better and higher standard of parliamentary performance by government leaders.

In the reply of the Defence and Home Ministries yesterday in the 2009 Budget debate in Parliament, the Ministers concerned, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, should have been in the House to reply personally instead of delegating to their deputy ministers who were completely in the dark on important and sensitive developments in their Ministries.

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