Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Tuesday, 4th
November 2008 at 11 am:
Azmi Khalid’s unilateral rush as PAC
Chairman to white-wash grave procedural abuse of helicopter tender
Public Accounts Committee Chairman Datuk Seri
Azmi Khalid has provided the most eloquent testimony why there is a
Commonwealth parliamentary convention that a senior Opposition
parliamentarian should be head of the PAC (and why a Minister who has
just stepped down from the Cabinet should not head the PAC) if the
parliamentary watchdog committee is not to be bullied or overawed by the
Executive to rubber-stamp or whitewash controversial government
decisions like the RM1.6 billion 12 Couger EC725 Eurocopter deal fiasco.
Yesterday, Azmi announced that the PAC had cleared the government of any
procedural abuse abuse in the RM1.604 billion Eurocopter helicopter deal
and that the deal “was done in accordance with procedures”.
Is Azmi aware that his announcement clearing the government of any
procedural abuse in the helicopter tender process has created
consternation, disbelief and dismay among right-thinking Malaysians and
undermined public confidence in the institution of Parliament for it
runs counter to the clear and grave procedural abuse in the tender
process requiring physical evaluation and in this case, test flights of
the helicopters shorted-listed?
How can Azmi claim on the one hand that there is no procedural abuse in
the tender process and yet in the next breath admit to the fact that
there was the grave procedural abuse of no physical evaluation and test
flight of the helicopters concerned?
As I pointed out in Parliament on Thursday during the winding-up of the
Defence Ministry by the Deputy Defence Minister, Datuk Abu Seman Yusop,
the helicopter tender documents specifically provided for “documentary
evaluation” in Section 37 and “physical evaluation” in Section 38.
We have here another instance of the conflicting claims and
justifications by top government leaders for the Eurocopter deal fiasco,
not only in three different versions for its price, but also on its
Abu Seman gave three ridiculous reasons in Parliament as to why there
was no need to comply with the tender document requiring physical
evaluation and test flight of the helicopters tendered, while Datuk Seri
Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister who was Defence
Minister when the helicopter deal was clinched, claimed that “joyrides”
of the Couger EC725 helicopter by RMAF pilots at the LIMA Airshow in
Langkawi were adequate as physical evaluation and test-flights!
Why is Azmi swallowing “line, hook and sinker” the government excuses
for a gross abuse of procedure in the Eurocopter helicopter deal instead
of showing an independent and critical mind which are the prerequisites
for a conscientious PAC Chairman?
Coming to the post of PAC Chairman with a
“Ministerial mindset” is bad enough, Azmi should be conscious that he
should not act or conduct himself in any manner as to create suspicion
or doubt whether he is being influenced by thoughts of getting back to
the Cabinet in the new Najib administration beginning in five months’
Is Azmi able to explain why he is prepared to
overlook the grave procedural abuse of not having any physical
evaluation and test flight of the helicopters tendered by claiming that
it was no procedural abuse?
What Azmi is guilty of is “an unilateral
rush” as PAC Chairman to whitewash the grave procedural abuse of the
helicopter tender process.
I have been referring to Azmi personally but
not to the PAC because I have been informed that no vote had been taken
of the PAC members for the PAC finding claimed by Azmi that there was no
procedural abuse in the RM1.604 billion Eurocopter helicopter deal and
that the deal “was done in accordance with procedures”.
In fact, this alleged finding of the PAC is
clearly not the views of all the PAC members and it is most unfair and
undemocratic for Azmi to claim that the PAC had reached any such finding
when it is not the case.
Yesterday, I had suggested that the PAC
should investigate the suggestion by a former Nuri pilot that a better
proposition is for an upgrade of the RMAF Nuris, which will cost only a
few hundred million ringgit, for two reasons:
• that 85 % of the RMAF Nuri crashes were due
to human error, 10 % enemy aggression and another 5 % only maybe
• the Nuris are still “good for another 20 years and more”, having
“very low airframe hours, with an average of 9000 hours per
aircraft” as compared to “worldwide standard for this type of
helicopter currently is more than 50,000 hours and some even
reaching 60,000 hours”.
I am shocked that my proposal had been
summarily rejected by Azmi on the ground that a total of 95 persons had
died in Nuri helicopter crashes since 1969.
I do not hold any watching brief for
Sikorsky, the manufacturer of Nuri helicopters, and have no objection to
the phasing of the Nuris, if this is the considered opinion of any
independent study of the matter as my top priority is the safety of the
RMAF personnel using the helicopters.
What I cannot accept is that Azmi has taken
upon himself to pass such a judgement, not as a result of an full
inquiry by the PAC, but because of the advice he had received by some
Defence Ministry official.
If the PAC Chairman is going to be a puppet
of any top Ministry official, what is the use of having a PAC in the
In his unilateral rush for PAC judgment to whitewash the Eurocopter
deal, Azmi has failed to lead the PAC to probe into two important
1. The 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.
2. Has the PAC secured firm undertaking from
the Defence Ministry that when the government finally decides to
purchase the helicopters, there would be a new open tender for the
helicopters in view of the procedural abuses in the Eurocopter deal?
Finally, when is Azmi and the PAC going to submit its report on the
Eurocopter inquiry to Parliament for debate. Can the report be
tabled by before the end of this month?
Azmi must not forget that the PAC is only a
committee of the Dewan Rakyat which has the final responsibility to
endorse, revise or reject its report and recommendations.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor