Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Saturday, 1st November 2008: 

PAC should summon Najib to its Eurocopter hearing and not just call up civil servants as he is the Defence Minister at the time of the critical decision-making before the ministerial swap with Abdullah on Sept. 17 and who must bear final responsibility

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should summon Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to its Eurocopter hearing and not just call up civil servants as he is the Defence Minister at the time of the critical decision-making before the ministerial swap with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Sept. 17 and who must bear final responsibility to Parliament for the Eurocopter deal.

The PAC postponed its second-day inquiry into the Eurcopter deal on Thursday because the Finance Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr. Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah did not turn up to testify.

The PAC is right in demanding that the highest-ranking officer from the Finance Ministry should appear before it to testify, and Wan Abdul Aziz is setting a bad example of civil service leadership and guilty of parliamentary contempt in claiming that he was “busy with other duties”!

What is the nature of Wan Abdul Aziz’s “busy with other duties” that he is prepared to commit parliamentary contempt by not appearing before the PAC when summoned?

However, why is the PAC not summoning Najib to testify and justify the extraordinary billion-ringgit 12 Cougar EC725 Eurocopters procurement – as in other “first-world Commonwealth Parliaments”, the appearance of the Minister concerned would have been the first item of such PAC inquiry?!

Is this another illustration why having a former Cabinet Minister to chair the PAC is most unsuitable, for it would be completely unthinkable for a political junior who had been used to taking orders from the Deputy Prime Minister for the past five years (and with Najib poised to become Primer Minister in another five months) to summon his superior to appear before the PAC to give an account of his stewardship of the Defence Ministry over the controversial Eurocopter procurement!

If the PAC had been headed by a senior Opposition parliamentarian, there would be no such qualms and self-denying limitations, and Najib would be put to the test as to whether he fully believes in the concept of parliamentary democracy in responding positively to any PAC call to testify before it.

The PAC Chairman Datuk Azmi Khalid should not be browbeaten or influenced by both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who had clearly hinted that the PAC should not create waves in its inquiry, as Abdullah has dismissed the three sets of different pricing for the Eurocopter deal given by the government as “academic” while Najib has sought to ridicule the Opposition for “making a meal” of the Eurocopter procurement.

The PAC inquiry into the Eurocopter deal is neither “academic” nor “making a meal” for two important reasons:

1. The Eurocopter deal raises very grave issues about propriety, accountability and professionalism in the decision-making process, whether at the technical, off-set or price stages, especially when it is now established that the government had not conducted physical and specification inspections of the three short-listed aircrafts – the Cougar EC725, Sikorsky S92 and AgustaWestlands AW101.

Najib should appear before the PAC fully armed to justify the procurement of the Eurocopters without any physical evaluation and test flights, citing previous instances in Defence Ministry of such exemptions or even cases of other governments buying billion-ringgit aircrafts without any test-flight.

Otherwise, how is Najib to rebut serious charges that the Defence Ministry had acted in a most irresponsible manner in the procurement process in trifling with the lives and safety of RMAF personnel who would have to use the new helicopters?

2. As Abdullah said that the price would be renegotiated again when the government finally decides to purchase the helicopters, the implication is very clear: the choice is still the Eurocopters! This makes all the preceding transactions in the helicopter tender, in particular on technical, offset and price, all very relevant, as well as warranting a full explanation from Najib as to why the government is “locked in” to the Eurocopter offer in future instead of calling a completely new international tender open to all interested aircraft manufacturers.

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